Change that leads to better lives

Stepping into the Future: Older Peoples Day

NDTi's Carol Cifford reflects on Tapping the Talents, Contributions and Participation of Older People in Society.

Carol clifford

What better way to end my first week at NDTI as Development Lead for Ageing and Older People than join with people around the world to celebrate the annual Older People's Day, which falls on 1st October. This year the focus is on enabling and expanding the contributions of older people in their families, communities and societies at large.

I recently watched a TEDtalk by psychologist Susan Pinker who talks about how social integration and close relationships are the strongest predictors of how long we live. Evidence indicates that interacting in person releases a variety of chemicals in the body -neurotransmitters, which act in a way that protects us, like a vaccine. For example, oxytocin is released which increases levels of trust and lowers cortisol levels which in turn lowers stress. Dopamine is released with social interaction, making us feel positive and acts as a natural pain relief. So meeting, being, interacting with people is good for us; can help us to live longer but life is more than just about longevity it’s about our fulfilment of it. That’s why our work from Rural Wisdom to Time to Connect and our more recent collaboration with the Campaign to End Loneliness, not only enables older people to develop and sustain connections with their communities but is also very much about creating opportunities to lead to more fulfilling lives.

The UN's "International Day of Older Persons" this year calls for us to focus on ‘the pathways that support full and effective participation in old age, in accordance with old persons’ basic rights, needs and preferences’. For me, particularly as a new member of the NDTI team, this is a great chance to reflect on how as individuals, organisations or communities we can do this more and/or better. But it’s more than that. It also a chance to affirm our why we are doing it. For me ‘Stepping into the future’ is all about enabling older people to live the life they choose, challenging the negative perceptions and attitudes about getting old; and recognising the value and the contribution that our ‘older’ friends, family members, neighbours, community members, leaders, volunteers or colleagues make to our own lives and communities.

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