The other evening I watched a TV program about a group of older women in Canada. The program may have been the program ‘Foreign Correspondent’. One of the ‘leaders’ of the group, an 89-year-old, had listened to a presentation about a group of older women in South Africa. The latter group was very different as their children had been caught up in the Aids epidemic and had died, not only leaving their children to be brought up by the older people but many of the grandchildren themselves had been born with AIDS. As a result of this chance encounter the Canadian contacted the South African group, and with her friends, started writing to them and fund-raising to help them out financially. A very close bond developed between the individual members of the two groups, benefitting both. The ladies faced with the prospect of bringing up their grandchildren had both financial support and the knowledge of new friendships, people who cared about them. From the Canadian side they had the feeling that even in later life they could still make a contribution to others who were often their contemporaries. The Canadians had added a purpose to their lives, something my research showed is very necessary as we get older.
The other aspect of this story is that it is not the first time I had heard about Canadian grandmas caring about the lives of others. Before this I had heard about the so-called ‘Raging Grannies’ who took to the streets to protest about what they regarded as ‘wrongs’. Sometimes they joined other protesters, such as for climate change awareness, at other times they protested on their own for issues that they thought were important. They wore bright clothing and sang funny, relevant new words to old songs. Of course what they did appealed to journalists so they got plenty of publicity.
These two situations led me to wonder if there is something different about the way Canadians view older women. Does the ‘old hag’ tag which is often applied to us not relevant there? Whatever is causing the situation is great as it benefits not only the causes they take up but must also benefit themselves. They must feel really good that they are making the world a better place, either for their own citizens or, in the first situation, for women in a less advantaged country. What we need to know is how to transport this idea and opportunity to other countries and to older men. How much richer their lives would be, and how much richer the world would be, if all older people could be attached to programs like this or similar ones, giving purpose to their lives and easing the lives of others. It would also make the world a more peaceful and loving place.
Anyone any ideas about how we could spread this sort of message and create these opportunities?