Ageing brings change but doesn’t mean we do not want to do new things, nor that we might not develop new goals and dreams. AARP, where I am currently volunteering, has put together an initiative called ‘life reimagined’. The project aims to help turn people’s goals and dreams into real possibilities through online and offline programmes, experiences, resources and services that help people adapt to their new life phase and live their best lives. It got me thinking about the nature of ageing and change.
Having recently married and moved to the USA I am in the land of new. New husband, new country, new friends; even buying a pint of milk here can be a challenge! Yes I miss my family and friends and occasionally get fed up with navigating new situations – don’t even get me started on my first post office visit! But it’s fun too.
A colleague at AARP was telling me this week that her last child had just left home and she was now an ‘empty nester’. We commiserated together. For different reasons we are both experiencing the fears and excitement of change.
As we go through life and grow older change is inevitable. It brings many new things; new roles as parents, as grandparents, as students and then workers (and back again) as volunteers, as husbands, partners and wives, as immigrants and emigrants.
Not all change is unwelcome, sometimes it comes because we are fulfilling old dreams or developing whole new goals. Even bereavement, difficult as it is, can be the start of new and positive times. Yes, some people are at home and alone and yes we need to reach out to them – but others are running marathons or skydiving; learning to play the piano or teaching children to read. My colleague above for example, was looking forward to joining a singing group as well as missing her children.
When my grandmother was widowed at 81 she packed her things and moved in with my parents without looking back. Many people assumed it would be to slowly end her days. On the contrary, many afternoons find her playing puzzles with her favourite great-grandson and now she is planning to redecorate her flat (at the top of the house). Now 94, she may have written a will and planned her funeral but she is also picking out fabrics and watching a fourth generation grow up.
Life is all about change. Isn’t it time to see that as a good thing?
For more information on the Life Reimagined project go here: http://lifereimagined.aarp.org/
Posted in Age UK London Blog
Tagged AARP, age, age uk, Age UK London, change, changing, life, life reimagined, new direction, new life, older, Older people, people, reimagined
I have just moved to Washington DC, and have been volunteering with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) – in their international department. AARP is probably best described as the USA’s equivalent of Age UK. It is the world’s largest membership organization, with nearly 40m members. In my short time here, I’ve already seen that many of the same challenges exist here as in the UK, as well as seen some interesting new solutions.
By 2050 the number of people aged 60 and over worldwide will have doubled, from 11 to 22%. In the developed world it is projected that by then 64% of the world will live in cities or urban areas. In the developing world this will be closer to 85%. Cities will need to be places where we can grow older, healthily and happily.
AARP runs a network of Age Friendly Cities in the USA. The network is a great opportunity to unleash the energy of local communities and to rally policymakers and businesses to act in the interests of older people and their families. There are currently 15 communities in the Network, including cities, towns and counties. Combined, the network reaches nearly 20 million people. The AARP network links to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Global Network of Age Friendly cities.
At the heart of the Age Friendly concept are local people, organisations and government actively involved to bring about changes they think will improve their lives, from more benches in parks to changes in local planning policies to involve older people. It involves assessing communities 8 ‘domains’ or areas of community life; outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, civic participation and employment, communication and information, and community support and health services. The community then makes an action plan and decides how they are going to decide if it has worked.
New York City is one of the early adopters of the concept. A big, diverse city, it has many similarities to London – it has also put aging at the front of its agenda in recent years, its work on changing New York, one district at a time is a really interesting way of encouraging local action. Age UKs in London, Older People’s Forums and many others are doing much of this work already. The advantage that Age Friendly can bring is; shared learning – across the globe, recognition, and a way to bring the myriad of successes already being achieved under one simple goal – to make your city Age Friendly and a great place to grow old.
Do you think this is something that would work in London?
I wonder if, like me, you were fascinated to see the roll out of news, blogs and opinions as the statistics from the 2011 census came out. It’s hard not to process it through our own experience, our own families and friends.
I live in Hackney, which I found out yesterday, had the lowest level of home ownership in the UK. I’m lucky enough to own my home, but I scrambled onto the ladder 12 years ago by the skin of my teeth. More people turn 65 in 2012 than ever before, a leap of 30% in a single year. My mother is one of them, and she joins the ranks of one in six . But the spike in the Baby boom is yet to come, when I turn 65 (and of course I’m not saying exactly when that will be) I will be one in four.
Hackney stands out, but in general the number of rented households has more than doubled over the past ten years to 3.6m. The number of households in which the property was owned outright also increased, though not as sharply (0.8m).
I mention these separate statistics because there is a relationship which will have an impact on demographics to come. It is generally the older generation that owns their home outright. Who are the lucky ones? Is it the older people, in their own homes? Not always. Many of those are holding on to an asset which they cannot afford to heat. Or they expect to use it to pay for their care. ‘Cash poor, asset rich’ is how it is often called. The younger generation might have more cash but it is being spent on spiralling rents.
I believe governments, individuals, communities and organisations need to look at these figures and learn, and start getting a bit creative, and think about what we can do in the next ten years, and the ten after that.
A recent creative initiative, supported by the design council, http://www.roomfortea.com/ came up with a really creative way of bringing old and young to address their housing needs and assets. The move to community led housing, through community land trusts, a campaign supported by London Citizens, http://www.citizensuk.org/2010/10/momentum-builds-for-uks-first-community-land-trust/ is another example of thinking anew.
Do you have any idea, solutions or your own responses to the census?
I taught my mum to use the computer. And it took the patient of a saint. I love my mum, but I got very close to breaking off all contact and going out to adoption. To be fair, she got close to disowning me.
At the time I suggested that just as you should never get your husband/wife to teach you to drive (it took her 20 years to take another lesson after my dad tried to do just that), your children shouldn’t teach you to use a computer.
Well not exactly… but a recent story in the press pointed out an interesting new trend. In 2010, over a third of newly created jobs were being taken by those over 65 and out of work.
These people might be taking up a job at 65+ to cover what their pension won’t stretch to, and to make up for savings which no longer pay decent interest. Or, given the role of grandparents these days, even to pay their grandchildren’s university fees!
The news often focuses on youth unemployment and worries about what young people – the lost generation – are going to do. Society is right to be concerned. However, unemployment doesn’t just affect the young. When it comes to standing in line at the Jobcentre Plus, it seems that we – whatever age we are – are really in it together.