3rd Age Heroes

by Terry Oliver on October 1, 2010

How many over-60s do you know, or know of, who are making a difference in your local community or further afield? I can think of quite a few. And when you reflect on the reasons, it’s not so surprising. For one thing, we have a lot more free time than younger people still working for a living.

But with our economies facing greater and greater problems, we 3rd Agers are confronted with increasing demands on our free time. The voluntary sector is traditionally where most of us put our efforts when we retire and it is growing by the day, taking on more and more responsibility as the economic situation deteriorates.

A couple of small examples. My local library would probably cease to exist if it weren’t for a very large force of volunteers supporting only two paid workers. Likewise my local arts centre. And the bulk of these people are over-sixties, many over-seventies and some even over-eighties.

My own preferred areas of community volunteering involve the local food bank and community theatre. The same proportions of old to young apply. Once again 3rd Agers are doing the heavy lifting.

I’m not complaining, merely observing the statistics of our ageing populations taking a more central role in our communities, towns and cities. It has been so gradual that most of us haven’t noticed the greying of our fellow citizens, especially in the cities where the young tend to gravitate.

In smaller communities, such as mine, it’s much more noticeable. Silver-tops abound. We are a force to be reckoned with and politicians know it. The movers and shakers in my community are predominantly over-60s.

I think my community is a microcosm of the larger world and provides a model of what the future holds for all of us in the developed world, at least. Perhaps we should be studied in order to predict trends in living patterns, so that our provincial and national governments learn where to spend our shrinking tax dollars and not waste them on grandiose schemes for outmoded methods of travel, like superhighways and airports when what we want and need are more buses, trains and pedestrian-friendly town and city centres.

Everyone loves the old villages, towns and cities of Europe and deplores our depressing strip malls so why do they keep on building them. Who is going to use them in future? 3rd Agers will simply turn their backs on these wastelands and create small people-friendly communities like mine where markets, cafes and locally owned shops are served by regular cheap community buses.

The impending energy crunch and climate change will force these changes on us all in a very harsh fashion quite soon unless we start planning for them today.

So why not take a tip from us wily 3rd Agers and see what we’re up to in our smaller towns and communities? Who knows, we could be the wave of the future?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

sheila reid October 3, 2010 at 9:43 pm

I think we ARE the wave of the future but there’s one ingredient that I’m missing in the mix: We have to begin now to forge strong links with communities less fortunate than ours in the global south and we need to introduce our youth to this type of thinking and acting. ( We already have many fine organizations in our communities that are making these links so we don’t need to look far for opportunities to become engaged.) If we don’t have links firmly established with those living in the countries on the front line for effects of global warming such as flooding, drought, disease and famine, (to name but part of the list), we might be forced to stand idly by while their suffering increases or, worse still, to see our countries take up arms against them. At the very least we’re likely to see some militarized boarders where those attempting to cross are shot. How will we function in the corporate cultures of the north once the drawbridges are raised and borders are sealed off? I don’t think the well-functioning, self-sustaining, localized community is the whole answer. That community needs to be linked as never before to many many projects in the south so that new, stronger bonds can be forged rather than the opposite, which would mean that we lose touch with the family of man (and woman) in all its diversity. Our lives would be impoverished by this broken connection. We need the global south as much as they need us and NOW is the time to tighten and expand the ties!

(On reflection I’m tempted to change that last line. DOES the global south still need us as much? In light of what we’re inflicting on them in terms of climate change and resource extraction I think the revised answer to that question might be “NO”. However the benefits for both sides derived from the development and friendship projects financed from the north cannot be denied. For us northerners they provide us with a life-line that will become increasingly important to us in the tough days ahead. We need as many of these projects as we can create.)

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