Last Wednesday Lord Andrew McIntosh at the House of Lords invited a group of journalists from Belarus to give a talk about the deteriorating conditions of media freedom in Belarus. Half way through the conference, an old granny of about 80 walked into the chamber, wrapped up all in black with a Miss Marple – styled hat fashioned on top of her head and her face barely visible from behind her thick glasses. People exchanged glances and made an effort to ignore this odd appearance.
However, when the time came for questions, the granny was the first one to shoot her hand up in the air. She stood up propping herself on the desk, cleared her throat and gave an elaborate speech ending with a question ”...perhaps Belarus will cease to exist altogether?” She spoke of human rights abuses, of censorship, of tyranny and Lukashenko’s pride at being “the last remaining dictatorship in Europe”.
I felt like the whole chamber has just leapt a giant step into the future, where 80 year old people don’t sit at home knitting, but attend public talks and gatherings and fight for their causes; where agism is non-existent and the whole nation is so old that the young people no longer have the time to campaign and protest. But it was a good feeling, an out-of-this-world experience and a very curious sneak-peek into the future.
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My mother is 80 and belongs to the University of the New Age where she takes part in a multitude of activities including giving presentations to large audiences. She joined last year and absolutely loves it. It’s something I definitely intend to do when I retire (that’s rather an unfortunate restriction which has been put in place in order to be a member … I’m not old enough).
15 Oct 2008, 06:58
I meant the University of the Third Age, of course! At 5 o’clock tomorrow morning we leave base camp and we’re off with Mrinhal on our adventure again. I’m so excited.
18 Oct 2008, 13:59
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