A few weeks ago I gave a talk to a group of elderly people in which I stressed how important it is for us to have a purpose in our lives, including, and particularly, as we age. If we retire at 65 we will have up to 40 more years of life ahead of us. How are we going to fill this time?

I suggested that if we see something that needs to be done, if we can’t fix it on our own we should recruit our friends to help and if that doesn’t work we should enlist aid from another group, such as Rotary. I’d like to include churches on this list but I am not sure how many of them are involved in the community except to provide religious services for their members. Some  city centre Christian churches in the UK are turning the spaces around their Church into vegetable patches and flower gardens from which local people are invited to help themselves. These people are often the very poor and the homeless so this gesture brightens up their lives and often provides them with much-needed nutrition.

Looking at the other side of the ageing coin, if we don’t do something with our lives, particularly at this stage, are we satisfied within ourselves? Is having lunch with friends a couple of times a week and going to movies really the way we want to fill our days or do we still feel, and should feel, we need to have a role to play in the world? Research suggests that if we feel good about ourselves we will live longer but they don’t say if we will live healthier longer, which many of us would want.

At the end of this talk a gentleman came up to me out of the blue and suggested that we get a group together by email. I like this idea because it could include people who are less mobile. Currently I am in the middle of reading a book about a group of younger people in Scotland, UK, who decided to fundraise for those less fortunate than themselves. One idea they eventually stumbled across was to provide a midday meal for children attending school in famine devastated Malawi. They arranged for the villagers to create a roster of people to cook the food, helped them to build a kitchen (which could be used for other things and also got the men involved) and arranged for the food (vitamin enriched porridge) to be delivered. This had an incredible outcome because not only did it prevent the children from dying from starvation (this was often the only food they had) but at the same time it ensured that they got an education, a sure way to get out of poverty. The idea grew as more and more people were involved as donors, fundraisers etc. and it spread to other countries. This was a brilliant idea which spread very quickly and had such beneficial results.

The problem is stumbling across, and if necessary,creating such projects and carrying them through. Older people have the knowledge, time, wisdom and, for many of us, the capability, particularly physically in some instances, to be involved and thus create a better world. What we need is a better mechanism for finding such programs and/or creating them.