|3rd Age Solutions
A movement to mobilise the vast resource of the over 60's to suggest and demonstrate solutions to the problems of the age.
Over 60's have chalked some of the world's greatest achievements. The abolition of slavery, the lifelong ambition of William Wilberforce, and Winston Churchill leading the Commonwealth through the Second World War are two examples.
Today over 60's are healthier and more in touch with global affairs than ever before. However they fall into two main groups, active and happy or inactive and lonely. Which group describes you? If you are not yet 60 what plans are you making for the 3rd age?
The 3rd age requires planning and determination. During these years you may lose a life partner or suffer financial or health limitations. The golf, the grandchildren, home decorating, world travel, or the garden may not be sufficient for 30 years.
How are you coping with not being needed?
For women the transition may be more gradual as children get married and the home may become smaller. However the loss of a life partner, particularly after a demanding illness, leaves a great emptiness.
For men the transition can be a greater shock. The heavy demands of employment stop with a party, and it's all over. A senior civil servant in Northern Ireland once told me that the expectation of life for someone retiring in his department was 18 months!
The government has expressed concern about the cost of financing pensions for a steadily growing number of retired people. It would appear inevitable that the retirement age will rise, pension contributions will have to increase, and the standard of living of pensioners will decline. The government needs the 3rd age to propose its own solution.
Voluntary sector answer
Age Concern and Help the Aged work to provide services for older people, as does Saga, but not services by older people in particular.
REACH, the organisation which offers retired workers for positions in charities, is possibly alone in mobilising the 3rd Age specifically. However it has a very low profile on the internet.
At a recent day conference for over 50's none of the key speakers were involved in such mobilisation. Those attending were mainly in the active group of pensioners, taking on a wide range of tasks for their church. They recognised the need at the lonely end of the spectrum, and made some effort to involve those who were less active in the work they were doing. A large bookstall revealed no books on mobilising this age group.
All the speakers encouraged activity, but Stuart Pascall, the Pastor of Community Church Banbury, presented a very persuasive PowerPoint presentation and call to make the most of each year of health. My questions to those attending the course from various churches indicated a large number of older members were lonely and relatively unfulfilled.
Over 60's clubs, Townswomen's Guild, WRVS, Oxfam etc.
Each has a part to play in the overall mobilisation of the 3rd Age as each relies heavily on retired people for its manpower.
Many find fulfilment in the work these organisations do, but they are all centralised and well organised and so lack the local creativity to attract the reluctant pensioner.
How can it work?
There are any number of problems, small and great, in this present world which need a solution. They include everything from global warming to urinating in public, from persecuted minorities to independent living for older people. In a serious moment our conversation will often turn to these problems and we may 'put the world to rights'.
Of course these problems affect all ages. However what time can the average family devote to them after working 9 to 5, children, homework, DIY garden and sleep? Perhaps 1 hour per day? Many of us have 8 to 10 hours per day to devote to such matters. We waste this time because:-
So many problems but how could you co-ordinate so vast a project?
- We are isolated and disorganised
- We have been led to believe we are past it!
- We cannot easily meet those who are interested in the same project as we are.
- Our skills may not be up to date to work on such projects.
- We thought retirement meant pruning the roses!
Small is great
Arguably in the Thatcher years Britain started on the road to recovery with thousands of new businesses. 75% failed in their first years but enough survived to boost the economy.
Jesus Christ restricted his team to the 12 followers He chose, and did not organise or co-ordinate anything.
Suppose every church or other community organisation offered its older members a 3AS meeting in which computer and internet skills would be practiced and projects would be discussed. If the group exceeded 12 it would be divided to ensure every member's viewpoint was heard at every meeting.
Jesus teaches that those least respected in the world are those we should honour.
When the group identifies a project of local, national or international interest they fill in a project proposal on the 3AS web site which shares the details with other 3AS groups. Other groups can then discuss the project in their group. Members of the new group can either register their interest in supporting the first project or adopt the idea locally, entering it on the web site as a new project.
In this way project teams can be built from groups all over the country. I have personal experience of the way a small group of bakers from England, Scotland and Wales, with the support of their church friends, were able to send a bakery to Kazakstan, 8 years ago, which is still operating.
Emails and the internet make this project building activity easier each year.
Funding the project
Some projects are better funded voluntarily by the members. Others will need to make a proposal to a charity or government agency for funds. The skills to do this will be gained within the network.
The objectives of this 3AS would be quite diverse. They would differ from group to group. One individual might be a member of more than one group or involved in more than one resulting project. The objectives might include:-
As the groups register on the web site their individual objectives should be declared.
- Social interaction and friendship
- Maintaining mental activity which is health giving.
- Opportunity to combine with others in worthwhile efforts to remedy local, national, and international problems.
- A think tank and sounding board open to a large sector of the population with a great deal of experience. This could eventually be a funding source from companies involved in market research etc.
- Opportunity to gain up to date skills, including the use of email and the internet, at no cost, which enable independent living in the future (see list).
- With the confidence gained from learning new skills some may be encouraged to find full time or part time or voluntary employment.
- Opportunity to meet those from other faiths and understand each other better.
A typical meeting might, during the morning involve learning to search the internet and communicate through email. It is a wide field in which few regard themselves as experts but many have a skill to share.
In the afternoon any project proposals could be discussed informally to overcome obvious disadvantages and the proposer could offer a redraft at the next meeting.
Later the group might discuss projects put on the web site by other groups and whether they could be of interest to the members.
Lunch, outings, etc. could be incorporated if desired.
Rationale for the meetings
Groups of up to 12 enable all views to be heard.
Computer expertise is best gained when there is an objective in mind rather than in a classroom in theoretical terms.
Meetings can be as diverse as are older people.
Many have enjoyed blessing in their lives but struggle to find a way to put back what they have learned into God's world.
Standards and Government
No attempt will be made to govern what is attempted by groups, or to set or maintain standards centrally. The only facility offered centrally is the web site on which proposals may be listed and through which networks of common interest may be developed.
Each project leader is responsible for the standards of Health and Safety, Non-discrimination, Equal Opportunity and all other requirements of the law. However these will be minimal in the early stages.
Each member joining a group is responsible for his or her own actions and the commitment of time or other resources they may make.
Idris was complaining that the local charity Sue Ryder Homes had stopped offering second hand electrical goods for sale because of European regulations. Idris had been involved in examining and testing these before they were offered at the monthly sale in aid of the local home.
In the discussion which followed Malcolm said second hand electricals were still available for auction on e-bay, the auction web site.
Idris thought e-bay might be a way to sell the electrical items he has and benefit Sue Ryder Homes with the proceeds.
Will it work?
Will it work elsewhere?
Are there people who would like to help?
The government recognises independent living as a worthwhile objective for retired people. It minimises their need for care until much later in life and it improves their mental and physical health and contribution to the economy.
Currently the Community Fund has a funding priority to encourage and equip retired people for independent living.
In applying for these funds on behalf of a deaf charity I have identified 30 ways in which the internet and emails can assist retired people to remain independent as they grow less mobile and capable. They are:-
The list is growing all the time. How will this change in your lifetime?
- Booking holidays, flights, hotels or B and B
- Making payments
- Investing and Finance
- Exchanging currency
- TV Guide
- Keeping email contact with children and grandchildren
- Finding postcodes
- Finding telephone numbers
- Home Shopping
- Comparing prices - Kelcoo
- Buying and delivering presents
- Buying and delivering flowers
- Sharing experiences - DeafFriendly.org
- Medical Information
- Sports Results
- Repeat Radio Programmes
- Study and Research
- Giving to charity
- Price-drop.tv - bargains
- Auctions - Ebay
- Friends Reunited
- China Replacements
- Family tree research
- Grocery shopping from list held by store
- Home Computer Support
- Selling surplus items
- Finding China Replacements
- Routes and maps
- ....and so many more.
The following is a list of projects which could be among those undertaken as a result of 3AS discussions:-
Malcolm Crocker 30 October 2004
- Formation of further local 3AS groups
- Research of local employment opportunities for over 60's
- Research of local voluntary opportunities for over 60's
- Discussing retirement policy with major employers.
- Observation of traffic violations and providing evidence to police
- Survey of local road conditions
- Observation of local criminal and nuisance activity and evidence gathering
- Surveys of over 60's opinions
- Developing independent living skills, like the use of the internet, and helping others do the same.
- Selling surplus goods for charities on e-bay etc.
- Specialist groups across the country to work on major problems like global warming, protection of minorities, immigration etc.
- Maintaining a database of available skills of over 60's which can be searched on the internet.
- Maintaining a database of project ideas so that they can be discussed at local meetings.
Planning for 25 years but ready to go tomorrow!