I have just heard about a University of the Third Age (U3A) group which meets to discuss current affairs in a club which gives them a very reasonable deal (no room hire charge). When the group heard that one of the staff members of the club had a baby which needed costly medical treatment they decided to do something to help. Their first venture was a small raffle with a prize of dinner at the club, donated by the club. This was so successful they organised a bigger raffle, with many prizes donated by local businesses which raised a considerable amount of money towards the baby’s medical expenses. It was very much a plus, plus situation with good will and benefits all round, as well as better health for the baby.

To me this also raises the issue of the talent, caring and goodwill of older people which normally goes untapped. Having found out what they are capable of doing I wonder if the group will go on to bigger and better things or will they just assume an ‘as you were’ attitude to life?

I am still angry at the expensive European study into what type of volunteering older people in six countries in Europe do. It was very comprehensive, with the researchers contacting many volunteer organisations to collect data. To me it was largely a waste of time. It’s what older people would like to do as volunteers, in areas not currently available, which should also be the focus of such research. The trouble is that, heaven forbid, it would mean the researchers having to actually work with older people. Yet without such comprehensive research we don’t open up areas such as that quoted above.

I keep pointing out that we older people have so much to offer in terms of experience, ability, knowledge etc. that we shouldn’t be regarded as part of an ageing ‘problem’ but rather part of an ageing ‘bonus’. It just needs a person or situation such as that quoted above to convince us that in spite of the way the rest of the world treats us we still have so much to offer. I don’t think the current attitude towards retirement, by retirees filling in time as best they can until the grim reaper comes, satisfies anyone. Thank goodness the group quoted above were able to see a challenge and rise to it. It restores our faith in ourselves and for the rest of the world to realise that we do, and can, play a valuable role in the world, given the opportunity.