I have come across details of a conference on ageing in Hyderabad in India in June run by an organisation called the International Federation of Ageing which I hadn’t heard of before. I have been to many conferences on the topic of ageing and they are always the same. They are organised by younger people, the speakers are usually almost all younger people and the same with the audience. I never stop comparing them with conferences on women’s issues 100 years ago which was run by men! Just as women were regarded then as not having any brains, and therefore couldn’t speak for themselves, the same attitude seems to apply to us older people today. As a result research is usually not very accurate. After all, these youngsters haven’t experienced ageing so don’t know too much about what it feels like. Hopefully this conference will be different. It seems sad that a major hope for me is that I won’t get physically shoved out of the way as I have at previous conferences. The physical experience doesn’t offend me as much as the idea that workers and researchers in this field feel that it is OK to treat us this way. This experience doesn’t fit in with the descriptions of abuse and rights of older people in the conference brochure! Maybe I can open their eyes to the reality of ageing.

My disgust at the way society treats us fell to rock bottom when I discovered that our representative at the United Nations is a young woman who has no plans to empower older people to take on the role. No wonder sexism and ageism have so much in common. I hope our struggle for recognition for ourselves and not merely through the eyes of younger people, doesn’t take so long.
Maybe this new organisation will be different although the topic descriptions for the conference seem to reflect what younger people think about issues for older people and not the reality. The fact that there is no cost subsidy for older attendees, thus providing a major obstacle to us attending, isn’t filling me with hope. Nearly all the other attendees will have their expenses paid for by the organisations they work for.

The highlight of the conference for me is the fact that one of the major speakers will be Professor Muhammad Yunus who established the Grameen Bank in India which was formed to lend money to poor people to enable them to pull themselves out of poverty by using the money to establish cottage industries. Needless to say he got a lot of criticism for such a silly idea until it proved highly successful, grew, and helped many get out of poverty. It also caused a cultural change as most of the borrowers were women. It enabled them to have their own income and not have to rely on their husbands. Meeting such a visionary will make living a diminished life style myself for the rest of the year will make the trip really worthwhile if I get there!