It's good to see a couple of positive pieces about ageing in today's media. Firstly, Fraser Nelson has written a thoughtful piece for the Telegraph on how much the 'older' generation is contributing to the workforce. And on the BBC website another piece about how entering the 'fourth age' doesn't deter some people from tackling new challenges and experiences – even sky-diving!
It's about the time the balance was redressed for far too often we read nothing but depressing articles about ageing focussing on lonliness and depression and implying that we are all going to end up shuffling around in our slippers with nothing better to do than watch daytime tv.
I personally don't know anyone who plans to end up like this, and from the evidence of all the over-60's I know most are far too busy to let ageing interfere with their lives. Most of us are either still working or heavily involved in volunteering; others are caring for even more elderly relatives or looking after their grandchildren on a regular basis. In these ways people contribute daily to society, oil its wheels and help the younger generations get by.
This is the exact opposite of the way 'older' people are usually portrayed in the media – as a group of people who are leeches on society. Indeed, we feel we've contributed all our lives, paid our taxes and done our extra bits for, and in, the community – and we're determined to carry on in that fashion. We don't want people worrying about us, insisting that we plan to go into care homes, for we feel we'll carry on in the same independent way we've lived up to now. OK so that may not always be possible but many of us are aware of this, even if we don't voice it, and make sure we put something by for any future illness that may strike us down.
Most of us have led responsible lives up to now and plan to keep it that way, so a little less patronising and complaining about us would go down well.
Most of us acknowledge that there's still far too much inequality and that we've been lucky to have had free university education and see our homes increase in value. But that was pure luck: we didn't deliberately organise things so that today's young would suffer. And many of us continue to do our bit by sharing our wisdom and experience with younger people.
I heard someone on the radio yesterday explaining that we needed to build more sheltered accommodation for older people to make the transition into less independent lives gradually. And that all sounds fine in principle. But I don't know one 60-year-old who'd acknowledge that this is how they want to end up.
A mixture of housing is much more likely to please us: small communities of housing of different sizes and for different stages of our lives – with young single people living alongside families and the elderly would be a far more attractive idea. Communal gardens that could be tended by those with time on their hands would make sense. Experienced gardeners could pass on their wisdom and skills to the younger occupants and together they could all grow fruit and veg to supply the community. This would bring people together in a natural, rather than a forced way, and undoubtedly lead to the 'elderly' feeling less isolated and lonely. It woudln't be sheltered accommodation, it would be ordinary accommodation in a mixed community.
If only our planners and governments and civil servants could think in this joined up way, I feel they'd get a lot of support from all of us who are slowly but surely ageing. After all, we are all in this together.