Retail expert Mary Portas reveals she’s a woman on a mission in her new recruitment challenge.

With 10 million Britons in retirement Mary’s convinced the over-65s are the country’s biggest untapped resource. And she’s determined to help the aged return to work in Channel 4’s new three-part series, Mary’s Silver Service (Channel 4, Wednesday, June 4).

What inspired you to make Mary’s Silver Service?

“I get approached with different show ideas, but I really wanted to do this one. I adored working with the over-60s in Mary, Queen of Charity Shops (2009), and really wanted to do it again, as it was a really uplifting experience. They’ve a great sense of duty, commitment and loyalty, which I loved. Working with old age pensioners is inspiring, and taught me something.”

What can viewers expect from the three-part series?

“We’re living in an aging society – people are living healthier and living longer, and therefore the retirement age isn’t as relevant any more. According to a lot of research many able-bodied people [who retire] don’t feel worthwhile any more. Huge amounts start watching TV and don’t know how they could possibly return to the community or get back into work. So we thought it was a great opportunity to set up a pop-up recruitment agency!”

Was it difficult to find candidates?

“We put ads out and were completely inundated! So much of it isn’t about the work, it’s about feeling needed and useful again. Having a sense of purpose.”

What were the biggest challenges faced by those you recruited?

“This first catering show is really hard work – as are the gardening and building ones later in the series. 
They’re not quite as nimble on their feet as younger waiters, so in the catering episode they had to be helped up the stairs with their trays. Also, Phyllis (91) put food in the fridge thinking it was the oven. They really made me laugh!”

What were the most surprising things you discovered during the making of the series?

“They’re some of the feistiest people I’ve ever met! They’ve got to this great place where they don’t care what they say. Yet they fiercely care about what they do and being professional. Their energy and sense of purpose really surprised me. They proved we need to stop writing them off – because they’re not written off!”