by Sam Cleal
The first day of October is the annual holiday of recognition and appreciation for older persons around the world. Backed by the World Health Organisation, the occasion aims to bring to the forefront of everyone’s mind the importance of remembering the older demographic, how they fit into society, what they do for us and what we can do for them.
The following statement from the website reads: ‘A demographic revolution is underway throughout the world.’ We are all ageing, and so it is important to think about the future now; by 2020, half of our UK population will be aged 50 or over. So why is this so important? ‘In our fast ageing world, older people will increasingly play a critical role.’ Old people presently make major contributions to society. They are already volunteers, teachers, pillars of the community, helpers and carers, as well as (increasingly) colleagues and business owners in the paid labour force. And with better living conditions and healthcare supporting and extending Britain’s life expectancy, this looks set to stay this way.
“Ageing is a development issue. Healthy older persons are a resource for their families, their communities and the economy.”
WHO Brasilia declaration on healthy ageing, 1996.]
With the population changing we should expect Britain to adjust too. The way we look at older people has to change. In most Eastern cultures, elderly folk are revered, in Britain and some Western cultures, old people are ridiculed and belittled. And if someone is good-natured and hard-working, generous and caring why should they be labelled and demeaned?
Let’s hear it for the older proportion of this world! This year’s theme is ‘Older people – a new power for development.’ So think about the connotations of development and get creative. You could arrange a lecture or seminar, you could show the man down the street how to use his Freeview box, you could open your business to the community, you could read at nursing home or you could organize a community event like a show or exhibition. There are endless numbers of ways to get involved.
One story that was particularly appropriate was when Sixth formers from a Community Technology College each brought a modern item of technology and spent time showing the elderly people how to use them. To return the favour, the senior citizens brought along gramophones, old typewriters and other interesting items the kids would never have had the chance to use.
Remember, we are all ageing, and it’s always good to come together to celebrate the ways we can connect and share our lives and develop for the better.
For more information and to look up events near you, head to http://campaigns.dwp.gov.uk/campaigns/olderpeoplesday/index.asp