All entries for May 2009

May 08, 2009

Are we prepared for an ageing society?

It is widely acknowledged that one of the major challenges facing the world today is the ageing of populations across the globe. In the UK, so-called baby boomers are already drawing their pensions and, in 2006, 20.5 million people were over 50 so that there are already more older people in the population than children under 16.

The government has begun to address some of the challenges of our ageing society through various efforts to combat poverty, to improve health and well-being and the launch of a national strategy on delivering lifetime homes. Yet a recent report from Age Concern showed that older people’s lives are getting worse citing poverty, age discrimination, isolation and lack of care and support as major issues.

In the media, older people tend to be represented as frail and helpless victims – dependent on others, suffering mental and physical decline, afraid to leave their homes, unable to cope with new technology – the list goes on. Yet we know that many older people continue to make substantial contributions to the well-being of their families and communities and that they can benefit enormously from opportunities for up-skilling, learning and for personal development in the same way as younger people.

The government recently proposed to develop more intergenerational initiatives through its new Generations Together Programme; but does this go far enough?  Is it time to stop seeing the ageing of the population as a ‘challenge’? Why not reframe it as a series of exciting opportunities!

Alexandra Withnall
Associate Professor in Lifelong Learning & Health

May 2009

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