By Hillary Wadsorth, Time to Shine Manager (Job Share)
At the recent Ageing Better Conference, a panel discussion addressed the question of “How do we change attitudes about ageing?” Chaired by Paul Cann of the Campaign to End Loneliness, the discussion felt like a breath of fresh air in which ageing was described in a positive and celebratory manner rather than any kind of ‘burden.’
‘To age is a privilege’ said Bernadette Bartlam from Keele University, setting the tone for the discussion. It was generally agreed that in the UK we have a problem with our cultural attitude to ageing which needs to change.
Dave Martin from the Centre for Policy on Ageing stressed that for attitudes to change we need to create a movement akin to Climate Change; it shouldn’t be about ‘us’ and ‘them’ but about society at large, inclusive of anyone with a passion for older people’s issues.
Dave spoke passionately about the monumental shift needed in society to embrace and flourish with an ageing population. Looking at social norms and lifestyles could create a social movement which will bring people together.
One in three children born today are expected to live until 100. As a mother to small children, this brings home that ageing isn’t only about supporting older people today but creating supportive opportunities for us all to age better in the future.
Ageing isn’t something that happens to other people.
The need for discussion of cross-cutting themes across the life course that would bring people together was highlighted as well as the challenge that there are real concerns and fears for many about ageing, especially for those living in poverty or experiencing ill health.
People agreed that investment in early years was crucial as well as interactions in the formation years of childhood to create intergenerational alliances.
I am fortunate to have enjoyed positive relationships with older people through family ties, neighbours and work. Growing up in an ex-mining village in Durham, we really did know our neighbours. As a child of the 1980’s I would regularly go to the local shop or ‘down the street’ for Mrs Burella and Mrs Burnett, taking pride in being big or mature enough to help. This neighbourliness was just something that happened and still continues to happen across communities, and everyone benefits.
As well as creating a list of actions for the Time to Shine project, one personal action from the conference is to ensure my two boys have positive experiences of sharing life with older people, just like I have.