Change that leads to better lives

Guest Blog: The Value of Older People

David Vickers is a member of the Older People’s Sounding Board. It’s a group we facilitate on behalf of NHS England where members use their skills and experience to provide feedback on policy proposals. The group also shares their views on the wider issues of wellbeing through themed conversations.

David OPSB blog2

Throughout my life, my view on what is “old age” has changed. As a child, I thought anything over 20 was old. Now, at the age of 72 years, I still don’t think of myself as old (apart from the odd day when things don’t work as they used to). Age is just a chronological construct. It may point to some stereotypical attitudes and categories. We tell people to, “act your age”. But whatever age we are, things are new. None of us have ever been our current age before. We don’t know what acting our age means. And being of an older age is also intergenerational, since it may mean being 50 to 70, 70 to 90 or 90 plus

Various Government departments like to know how old we are. Our age somehow fits into their scheme of things and triggers off some plan, algorithm or actuarial model based on predicted needs and services. This is one side of the picture – the cost of the elderly. It often neglects the benefit – the value that older people offer to their various communities and organisations – locally, nationally and even internationally. It may also fail to recognise the needs and values of the different generations our age may represent.

I write this a few days before International Day of Older Persons and events around the world, this year, are on the theme of the value of older women.

Whether or not women have been in paid employment, following a vocation or professional career, or have been keeping a family together, raising children, caring for a family member, they all have skills and knowledge that can be transferred to either paid work and career change in later life, volunteering, writing, teaching, or mentoring others.

Older people, especially women, are often part of a significant army of unpaid carers for families and neighbours. They fill a gap in the social care system and can trigger early interventions by health professionals.

So, let’s put aside the stereotypes and consider the value of older people. At my age, I often marvel that I am busier now that at any time in my life. I enjoy being this age. I feel valued for what I have to offer. In turn, I value others around me who refuse to put their feet up and, “act their age”.

There are a number of places left on the Sounding Board. If you’re over 50 and have a diverse life experience we’d love to hear from you. We’re particularly keen to see applications from more males from BAME backgrounds. Find out more about our work.

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