Age UK London is a campaigning organisation actively striving to get the voices of older people heard. With that in mind, we thought we should interview some of the older Londoners we have worked with down the years. First up is Vidur, who tells us all about his life, offers some advice to the next generation, and reveals what he’d do to make London more age friendly. If our interview with Vidur inspires you to tell your story, please get in touch!
1) Hi Vidur! First of all, please tell us a bit about yourself?
Born at Blairmont, a sugar plantation in British Guiana (now Guyana), I settled in London in 1962, studied at Delhi University, and at Brixton School of Building, now London South Bank University. I have been an architect, a RIBA assessor of Continual Professional Development material, a magistrate, and have held many public appointments, relating to transport and disability. I have also authored two books on Guyanese achievers in UK, USA and Canada. Now a Hindu priest, I am also keen on inter-faith activities.
2) How did you first find out about Age UK London? How long have you been attending our events?
I used to meet Age Concern and Help the Aged officers at meetings in the 90s when I was a member of the London Regional Passengers Committee, the statutory watchdog for transport users in London. It is now known as London TravelWatch. When I retired, I decided to contact the two bodies, and was told that Age Concern was changed to Age UK. I have attended events organised by Age UK since 2004.
3) Tell us about some of the Age UK London events you have attended? Do you have a particular favourite?
Among many I have attended, those that I greatly value are ones on health, and on digital technology, equal as favourites. It was a revelation to me to learn at a couple of health events that we have to eat well, to counter the problem of under nourishment caused by generally eating less as we get older. I have found the IT sessions very useful, as they help me to make full use of my computer for basic things like writing and emails. These have helped me to keep in touch with friends from far and wide and know about happenings and get involved in them.
4) What are some of the challenges you have faced growing older in London?
Very occasionally in a gathering of people of all ages, the older person is at risk of being left alone. I counter this by breaking the ice with starting a conversation. The lack of public toilets is a concern. When I go out anywhere I make sure I can find a decent loo if I need to. Driving. Tail gating on the motorway, people driving too close behind, overtaking on inside are nuisances; impatience of other drivers. Help with household chores and maintaining the garden.
5) If you could change one thing to make London a more age friendly what would it be?
Create a Dedicated Proactive Help Centre (DPHC) – not unlike Age UK London – under a separate Government Ministry set up for this purpose, and working through Local Authority, the centre would provide help in these areas among others:
1) Education from primary school level on ageing, the need for support, the fact that the aged play a vital part of an inclusive society – society is not only about the young and able bodied.
2) Organising before and after retirement finances to live comfortably in long period of old age.
4) Personal helpers and carers.
3) Activities, paid or unpaid work, volunteering, learning new skills to do things using body and brain, inherent talents/gifts all of which make for fulfilling living.
6) Finally, what is one piece of life advice that you would give?
My mantra, as a pensioner, is to make the best out of my life, I must do things, physically and mentally, to keep body and brain in working order.