Celebrating ‘third age’ can revitalise community

I READ with interest Blair Thomson’s account of our ageing population. 

While I don’t disagree with the points he makes, as usual in articles of this kind there’s no mention of the positives associated with this demographic.

A lot of our “ageing population” continue to work in a paid or voluntary manner, and by no means are they all in need of the services mentioned. 

I’m tired of reading about the negatives of ageing and the quantum leap made by journalists from retirement to a presumed age-related dependency. 

There are many older people who want to do everything they can to stay out of assisted care and we should be focussing on helping them. Many families depend on older relatives and friends to care for children while they work. Many older people volunteer their services and skills to the many not-for-profit organisations that wouldn’t survive without this input. 

Older people still have a great deal to offer and contribute to their communities and it is this vital interaction that needs to be fostered and developed. 

People generally need to feel wanted, that their skills are being used and that they can be involved in social activities – this doesn’t change just because you’re older. 

If they’re no longer part of the workforce, harnessing this energy can revitalise a community.

Rather than depicting this ageing population as some dark storm about to flood our communities, resources and services, we should be focussing on what benefits this population can bring and what they can do for our communities – how we can keep them out of nursing homes and requiring other in-home services. 

Baby boomers are an entrepreneurial lot, they come from an age of inventions and they have had to adapt to change. Please don’t just depict them as a weighty demographic problem.

I’d like to see our politicians and statisticians tell us just how well we’re doing. What percentage of our over 65s do not access any of the services provided? How well are we doing as opposed to other areas? This statistic needs to be highlighted with trends over time shown. 

Some areas will do better than others and we need to analyse why and adopt interventions that are shown to work.

U3A Bendigo (mentioned in another article as seeking a new home on February 20) provides activities that aim to keep minds and bodies active in our life’s “third age” (mature age). 

With over 400 members across Greater Bendigo, this group is growing steadily because mature-aged people are looking for a range of activities. 

As Bendigo’s population is projected to grow and over 65s become around 17 per cent of the population, it’s time to make adequate provision for them.

Let’s celebrate this ‘third age’ of life and where we can let’s provide activities and facilities that enable the ageing population to participate in activities that exercise the mind and body, and enable them to socialise with others on a daily basis.  Everything U3A Bendigo offers in fact.

Lyn Goodall,

vice-president, U3A Bendigo

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