Dame Judi Dench is battling failing eyesight which has left her unable to read scripts.
But the actress has said she is driven “spare” by people asking when she will retire because she has no intention of leaving the stage.
The 79-year-old was diagnosed with macular degeneration, which can lead to blindness, several years ago.
She stars opposite Dustin Hoffman, 77, in a BBC1 Christmas adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Esio Trot, the touching story of a faltering love affair between two lonely pensioners.
Speaking at a screening of the film in central London, Dame Judi issued a plea for the capacities of older people not to be ignored. The Oscar-winner said: “It drives me absolutely spare when people say ‘Are you going to retire?’ or ‘Don’t you think it’s time you put your feet up?’ or tell me my age.
“I loathe it. I don’t want to be told that I’m too old to do something; I want to try it first and then, if I don’t succeed, then I can be told I can’t do it.
“Otherwise, because you get to a certain age, it’s “Oh well, you mustn’t do that because you might have a fall or you can’t learn the lines or you can’t see’. Let me have a go. Let us all have a go.”
Dame Judi’s macular degeneration, an age-related condition that leads to a gradual loss of vision, which her mother also had, has left her struggling to watch films.