Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Working with Older People, Volume 15, Issue 3
Every day, we all have opportunities to try something new, to achieve something, but increasingly as we get older we tend to stay where we feel safe and may turn away from some of these opportunities. Last winter, I was out walking in the snow with friends when we passed some other villagers who were sledging down the hill, including a 68-year-old neighbour. I dearly wanted to have a go on her sledge, but I was afraid I may not be able to stop before the stream, or I might fall off. I lost an opportunity to have fun because I used my age as an excuse. This winter we had another snow fall and this time I knocked on her door, borrowed her sledge and had a wonderful time.
Fear and a misplaced perception of what we can achieve as we get older can limit us in many ways making our world smaller and less colourful. There are many examples of older people who do not allow age to limit the possibilities open to them. The WRVS published Gold Age Power in June this year with a list of people over 66 years who are still making an important contribution to the community. The list included many well-known figures including Vivien Westwood, Michael Palin, Delia Smith and David Attenborough. I expect, we all know of people in our own communities who are excellent role models for what can be achieved by older people who are not constrained by fear of the unknown, negative attitudes of society or their own self-limiting beliefs.
This issue of working with older people has a variety of papers covering a wide range of topics. Cormac Russell writes about the important contribution older people can make to their communities and how this is essential to improving health and wellbeing. He makes a good case for preventing ill health by building communities where young and old can contribute their talent, skills and knowledge and so help one another.
In the June 2010, Issue of Working with Older People Tom Bracey wrote about the Dorset Poole and Bournemouth Total Place Pilot. One year on, Andrew Archibald explains what has been achieved in Dorset. He too advocates the importance of social activity and being connected to neighbours and friends as a way to promote good health and prevent the need for health and social care.
There are three very different papers each describing the benefits of specific activities on the health and wellbeing of older people. All three emphasise the important contribution that older people can make to their community and the difference that participation in meaningful and shared activity can make to the quality of life.
There is a research paper on gardening and the social engagement of older people. Four community gardening initiatives for older people living in disadvantaged communities in Manchester are evaluated for their impact on the wellbeing of older people as well as the benefits to the community. Another paper is a case study describing how the Media Trust Community Voices Vintage Radio Project has resulted in a radio station for older people run by older people. The third paper is a research paper on how an outreach project helped to bridge the digital divide by enabling older people to use the internet and the opportunities this opened up for them.
This brings me back to where I started as a fear of new technology and a reluctance to change is another way in which we can limit the possibilities open to us. A woman who I greatly admire as she went to university full time at 70 years old and is currently a PhD student at 85, said to me ‘Never say I am too old to do anything, keep on doing the things that you love and have something to look forward to everyday’. Very sound advice, thank you Elsie.