This week I attended another meeting with a government minister who wanted to hear the views of older people, this time it was at the national level. It’s good that meeting with us older people and hearing our views is becoming so popular but once again what we put forward tends to be at the parochial, individual level.

The two major groups which purport to represent older people were represented again but by more members this time. One of the religious groups which provides care for older people had 5 representatives. I asked them afterwards why they their needs were presented by ‘youngsters’ only to be told proudly that the other, non-speaking members were over 65. It didn’t seem to occur to the spokespeople that the older people should have been presenting their case instead of being there as ‘exhibits’! It is called empowerment which this organisation still doesn’t recognise nor feel beneficial for their older members.

In the queue for morning tea one gentleman pushed in front of me (and the rest of the queue) to get his tea. I never did work out a way I could politely ask him why. Didn’t he realise how rude this was? Was it because I am a woman and he felt that it was his right to serve himself first? Older people are so fragile in a world which looks down on us that I was reluctant, and didn’t, raise the issue with him.

All of this inappropriate behaviour to older people, including by us older people as well, is so rude and unnecessary. The sooner we older people present the message that we are an important and valuable part of society the better all round. The trouble is that until we behave in a way which proves that we believe this ourselves, it won’t happen. After all, who is going to believe this image of us unless we believe it ourselves and act accordingly?

It is easy to talk about an ageing population, quoting the statistical evidence, but taking on board the consequences of this as older people personally seems to be a different matter. When we talk about our own retirement shouldn’t we take into account that this state could last for up to 35 years or beyond, and will what we are planning to do really give us satisfaction and fulfilment for all that time? So many older people seem to fill their days with lunching with friends interspersed with trips to the movies. Is this all we are capable of doing? Is this the culmination of our life’s work? Does this really satisfy us for such a huge part of our lives?

We have been pioneers so often in our lives, including the war and post war years for many of us, why can’t we take on this new challenge? We are the pioneers of this new ageing. Let’s rise to the challenge. After all it’s largely up to us. We should be the role models of the new ageing for those who follow in our footsteps.