Seniors contribute to the village

‘Our village must mobilise to support the well being of elders,’ read a recent headline in the West Australian Newspaper. The headline twists the African proverb, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’.

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The writer of the article, Rhonda Parker, a former Minister for Ageing in the Western Australian government, heads Alzheimer’s WA. She says:

With the ageing population putting pressure on families and the health and aged care system I suggest we adopt a 21st century addition to this phrase – it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to care for its elders.

Perhaps Ms Parker’s point of view of seniors can be excused because, in her role with Alzheimer’s WA, her clientele suffers from dementia and needs care.

However, as a fully-functioning eighty-year-old, even with my wonky knees, I’m somewhat bemused by ageist writing that discusses me, and others like me, in the third person.  All those authors who talk about seniors as, ‘they’ and ‘them’ – what are they thinking?

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, one in seven of the population  in Australia is aged over 65 years and therefore deemed to be aged.

However, only a tiny percentage of older people suffer from mental and physical frailty so severe they need constant care either at home or in aged care facilities. Others may need a little help with some parts of their lives so they can live at home successfully (‘age in place’.)

As well as that, as Ms Parker points out,

We know age increases the risk of depression, social isolation and  disengagement from the local neighbourhood. We know the three demons of later life are loneliness, helplessness and boredom.

However, most people over sixty-five enjoy happy and fulfilled lives.

Seniors contribute to the village

Most of us older people can and do

  • Look after ourselves and our affairs
  • Make decisions and, like everyone else, live with the consequences
  • Provide support to our families, friends and neighbours
  • Provide informal (and sometimes formal) care for others, including parents, partners, grandchildren and great-grandchildren
  • Look out for friends and neighbours of all ages
  • Contribute to the economy when we shop, pay our bills and maintain our homes
  • Volunteer our time and expertise to a variety of causes
  • Belong to organisations, clubs and groups of many different kinds
  • Support the arts through attendance at the theatre, art galleries and movies
  • Read books, journals and papers
  • Enjoy hobbies
  • Play and have fun
  • Celebrate our own, our families’ and our community’s special occasions
  • Make memories with others.

Some seniors also

  • Work in paid employment either full or part-time
  • Attend church
  • Exercise and play and watch sport
  • Travel

I wish people, especially those in positions of influence, would not talk about us as if we are a burden to be managed.

Like everyone else, we enjoy being involved in the lives of our families, friendships and communities. We are the protagonists in our own lives.

16 thoughts on “Seniors contribute to the village

  1. Thanks Maureen –

    Maybe a couple of things to add to your list: I think many of us are still pretty sexy, we like dressing up, enjoying a risque joke and good laugh, sing songs, dance, etc. etc.

    Of course, these would all be included in your list – playing and having fun.

    Always love your lists. And love the age we are in.

    • Oh, yes, Elizabeth! I didn’t spell out all the things I should have. Thank you for the reminder. I also love being in this age group.

  2. Some over 65 write great thought-provoking pieces and make good blog-buddies, too. 🙂

    I have several wonderful older friends and family. My father still did supply teaching until the age of 76 (he’s 77 now). Another family friend who is 80 does yoga twice a week, and volunteers at a palliative care facility, sitting with patients when their family can’t be there. And my lovely 94-yr-old friend, though physically challenged, tells me the funniest stories, all with a twinkle in her wicked blue eyes.

    I’m so enjoying reading your regular posts Maureen – always something to ponder.

    • Thanks for confirming that over sixty-five doesn’t mean over the hill, Fiona. Your friends are great examples of seniors contributing to the community. I hope your father has plenty of things to occupy, interest and inspire him now he’s stopped teaching. I can’t help thinking how lucky the kids he taught are, to have such a fabulous opportunity to relate to an older person in a positive role.

      There are many older bloggers whose posts I enjoy. I might try and reblog them.

      And I love it that you read my posts, enjoy them and comment. Thank you.

  3. I love the way you express yourself and defend the rights of others. You may remember my father worked until he was 90 years old. He then went and did a computing course. He was recognised several times for his contribution to his area. I did not start writing books until I was 70. I also wonder what my grandchildren would do without my help. And thus it is in many families

    • Miriam, you are the perfect example of a senior who contributes to the village, having been responsible for raising your grandchildren since they were babies, and still being a very necessary support person for them and the others in spite of poor health. And you write books. Amazing! Thank you for being part of my blogging and friendship communities.

  4. Yes – older people are often amazing contributors in our communities- and must be respected and recognized for all they offer.

    • Thanks, Jenny. I can feel a burst of evangelical fervour about the rights of older people coming on – again. It’s easy to forget some things.

  5. My father, who will be 90 next month, still lives independently, drives to his mountain cabin on weekends, takes classes at the local university, and is active in our church. Yesterday he renewed his driver’s license for another 5 years. 🙂

    • Hi, Deb, Your father sounds like a wonderful old man, interested, interesting and independent. I love hearing about people like this who live their lives to the full, in spite of their years. Thank you for your comment.

  6. Hi Maureen,

    I love reading your posts! Like you my hackles go up hearing a discussion of “them”. Why is it that as we age many people start to act as if we are senile?

    My Nan is 90 years young. I don’t like how people speak to her sometimes. The hint of condescension creeps in at times. My hackles rise.

    Nan has a lifetime of experience and wisdom. She still volunteers in her local community, goes to art classes, keeps the extended family connected. I love talking to her as an adult speaking to another adult. Nothing shocks her. She has lived it all. She reminds me constantly of what truly matters in life and what is not worth the worry.

    How on earth anyone could see a burden is beyond me! Her strength and worth as an amazing human being far outweighs the few health dramas which are part of aging. She is the glue that holds our family together and am important part of the bond within the local community.

    Every person in a community has value regardless of if they are 9 or 90. I volunteer online with beyondblue and many volunteers are older people. They embrace the opportunity to share their knowledge and I can’t explain how valued it is within the online community. It takes all ages to be able to have the skills, time and experience to support a community.

    PS. Thank you Maureen for the kind welcome back to blogging. It is lovely to feel well enough and also to be acknowledged. ❤

    • Your response to my blog is wonderful and rewarding, Nat. I love hearing about older people who have such important places in the lives of others. Holding the extended family together is one of the roles of older people, one I thoroughly enjoy, although my sister, who is a few years younger than me does it very much better than I do.

      I’ve spent the afternoon with my oldest daughter and her youngest daughter. We went to a fabulous art exhibition, wandered around some shops and had coffee. My granddaughter is 17. Her mother said she really wanted to come with us because she doesn’t get enough time with me, and it is ‘ages’ (about two weeks) since she saw me. We talked ballet and art and clothes and stuff. I feel very loved and valued. I feel sure your grandmother will feel the same way about you.

      I’m glad you are back blogging. I love seeing your beautiful photos and reading snippets of your life. I missed you when you went quiet. Can you invite me to be a FB friend if you’d like that (you can probably do it more easily than I can) and then I can pm you if you go quiet.

      • Hi Maureen,

        Your time with your granddaughter sounds really special. I don’t see Nan much now we’re in Perth and my son is in kindy. So trips are limited to school holidays. I miss her a lot. She seems to be one of the few people in my family who understands depression and I can talk to openly.

        I don’t use social media sorry. This blog is about the extent of it (or my posts on beyondblue but they are anonymous). But you are always welcome to email. My email is savant_171@hotmail.com (yep embarrassing but I was 10 and thought it sounded nice). I do go awol sometimes when I’m not well. But seem to be back with the wildflower season .

      • Hi Maureen,

        Ah. Your granddaughter is lucky and so are you. I miss hanging out with my Nan. Since my son started kindy we get to visit a lot less. I miss her a lot.

        I don’t use social media sorry (apart from this blog and writing anonymously on the beyondblue forums). (I was ten and the name sounded cute haha). I would like that. I’m sorry if you worried when I was absent. When I’m down I do tend to isolate myself.

        I told another member (Dark Horse) about your blog. He wrote about a 93 year old woman he knows who got her first tattoo. And how it made him realise it proves it is never too late to live and enjoy your life and try new things. Such a lovely post.

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