Love Later Life
There are more people in Northern Ireland aged 55+ than 18 and under. As we grow older we face new challenges, and possibly concerns like illness, poverty or ill health. But that doesn’t stop us being ourselves.
We still want to laugh, love and be needed. We want to stay independent and keep doing the things we love. We all want a fulfilling later life.
That’s why Age NI is here. To support those who need us, to stand up for all those who have reached later life, and protect the long-term interests of future generations. We believe that living longer should be celebrated.
Our vision is a world where everyone can love later life. Just like the wonderful local faces in our personal stories below.
Alan is a member of Age NI’s Consultative Forum which engages with, and advises the charity on its strategic direction. He tells us why he loves later life.
'I live by the Mourne Mountains so I often say to myself, 'isn’t this beautiful and isn’t it great to be alive! I appreciate what I have. I often talk to people who’ve had a terrible time, yet they remain cheerful and upbeat. They're a wonderful example.'
'My involvement in Age NI’s Consultative Forum has made me more aware of the challenges affecting people in later life. It makes me realise how I can help a charity like Age NI make a big difference. The Forum brings together a range of backgrounds and talents and we work together to help more people in Northern Ireland to love later life.'
'I see age as just a number and I’m certainly more involved and active now than ever before. It’s important to take time to yourself though. I enjoy reading.'
'My daughter bought me an iPad for Christmas and I downloaded 'Philomena' by Martin Sixsmith. Now I have to watch the movie. My daughter lives in Singapore and we always make time to chat through Skype. It's as clear as a bell. Isn’t it amazing to think how much we’ve moved on through technology? Life’s good!'
'There is truth in the saying that 'as one door closes, another opens' – all we have to do is look and take the leap! In 2010, this happened to me.
'My children had all finished university and college and were now making their own way in life. I had for some time debated the option of retirement. So, with a thrill of excitement and a slight fear of the unknown, I went on my venture to endeavour to relax and at last do all of the things I had tried to squeeze into a busy life.
'Although I became involved in many different activities my passion for cycling brought me into contact with a group of older people who call themselves the 'Wednesday Wobbly Wheelers', a branch of Cyclists Touring Club (CTC). We meet at Central Station in Belfast and clasping our precious Senior Smart Pass cards, take our bikes on board a train to different destinations across NI (sometimes beyond) and disembark to cycle 10-30 miles. Our travel cards support us to stay active and in touch with our friends. After much bike talk and banter over lunch (and occasionally a tune on the harmonica from Victor) we cycle on to another station, board the train and head home.
'Many of these amazing people have taken up cycling in later life and many like myself have been involved for a lifetime. Their secret is to always be active, physically or mentally, and enjoy the craic of like-minded people.'
'I have had an absolutely fabulous life - I still have! When you’re younger you think of later life a lot differently- but I love where I am at the moment. I think it’s really important to embrace opportunities and to not be deterred from giving new things a go.'
Freedom in later life
'There is a great deal of freedom in later life and there is so much going on and lots to get involved with, really you can keep as busy as you wish. I am a Peer Facilitator for Age NI and I’m also involved with my church. I enjoy going to musicals and the opera and getting out for a walk. I love being involved with local radio and of course my grandchildren keep me on my toes.'
'Loving later life for me is all about having a positive mental attitude. A few years ago I became involved with a group called Women of Hope- we came together as survivors of breast cancer. We produced a calendar to fundraise for our local hospital and it wasn’t long before we were known locally as the Calendar Girls due to the nature of the calendar!'
'It was such a positive and enjoyable experience to meet such wonderful women and is just one example of how I try to embrace whatever new opportunities that arise- no matter what stage of life I’m at. For me, loving later life is all about a positive attitude!'
'I never thought that on retirement, I would find myself involved with so many projects or areas of volunteering. Talk about new horizons - I don’t believe I’ve ever been busier!'
'For me in later life, I have the freedom to structure my days to do all the things I wanted to do in earlier years, but did not then have the time to do, such as volunteering for Age NI and other organisations in other areas with the aim of enabling Equality and Human Rights for us all, at any age, and from any section of society.
'As I grow older, my volunteering with Age NI has given me informed and greater insight into ageing issues. I’m still growing, but I hope this is in wisdom too. I hope others are the beneficiaries of my volunteering otherwise there would be little point in doing it.
'Freedom for me to explore the ever shifting opportunities volunteering affords, includes my leisure time as leader of a walking club when I’m climbing hills and mountains regularly in the company of my friends, and enjoying the beauty of the surrounding landscape at the same time.
'Volunteering means you encounter new people all the time and make many new friends, one of the reasons why I love later life!'
'I love later life because there is so much for me to get involved with, be it a community group, volunteering or a local project. I love socialising and getting out and about and I have loads of opportunities to do so!
'I have been involved in a local inter-generational project. This has been great to be part of and a huge achievement. We have been working on making a peace quilt and the great thing about this project is that both older and younger people have been involved. We had a laugh together and we all got on really well! Being so active in the local community and mixing with people of all ages is something I enjoy.
'I am also a volunteer for Age NI and I love being so involved with the charity. It’s great to meet new people and make a difference and that is what I love most about later life.'
'My wife and I both originally came from the Ormeau Road area of Belfast. We had been together for over 45 years and when she died suddenly, there were so many people who attended her funeral that I hadn't seen for ages. It was wonderful to see them and to feel their kindness.'
'We all agreed to meet in the Ulster Museum month later so that we could catch up with each other. Afterwards, we walked around the Holyland area were we grew up together to see how much our district had changed over the intervening years. And from that nostalgic wander came the genesis of an idea to hold a reunion of people who grew up with us in the same Holyland district!'
Stories and memories
'Former residents were encouraged to come along and share their stories and memories of life in our Holyland reunion at an event last May. It was a great success and another event was planned in Botanic School.'
'Many unknowns face us later life. I have found that networking with former friends was a truly positive way of building my own support networks to cope with personal change. Finding a little bit of the past again has help me to love later life in the present.'
'As a retired person, I have to admit that for me to say that ‘age is just a number’ reflects a deep desire to deny that I have been put out to grass. Look! Pay attention! I am here! I have not really grown up, despite appearances! I can still do many of the things I used to do if only I was permitted! There are many like me.
'Certainly people like me are the ones who buy into holding back the years rather then reeling them in. We are the ones who most loudly espouse the idea that age (and everything else about people’s selves) is more about social construction and imagination rather than about our biology.
'All very well, of course. But we know that saying that ‘age is just a number’ is much easier when one has good health, when one has a set of warm, supportive relationships, and when one has the financial wherewithal to cope with modern life.
'With its expertise, resources and attitudes, Age NI seeks to work for all those who wish to shout that age is just a number, but find it difficult to do so. That’s why I’m delighted to be part of the Age NI network of volunteers who seek to help more people to love later life.'
I worked for two years in the European Commission in Brussels in the 1990s, and – a case of sink or swim, for at that time French was used in the Commission much more than it is now – my A Level French improved to the stage that as well as surviving at meetings and on the phone, I was reading French books and magazines for pleasure. Back to a stressful full-time job in Belfast, it all slipped away and detective novels (in English...) were about the height of my reading.
In (partial) retirement, it has been such a joy to get back to this beautiful language and read everything from the classics, to modern literary fiction and, yes, detective novels! My retired languages-teacher sister sends me Nouvel Observateur and I’ve got Le Figaro on the laptop too (thereby neatly covering both right and left in French politics). Quel plaisir!
'My husband Owen always asks me when I’m going to stop being so busy - I say, whenever I stop enjoying it! I absolutely love the opportunities I have in later life to have fun and help others to have fun too.'
Best of times
'I've been a Beaver Scout Leader for over 40 years which I adore, and I’ve been running the Wednesday Club for older people in Castlerock since 1979. There are over 70 members, and about 40-50 people come regularly every week. 30 of us went on a river cruise to Amsterdam and we always have the best of times on our outings.'
'We were at a production of 'Dreamboats and Petticoats' and we had such a great time reminiscing with each other, everyone up and singing along. It was wonderful - pure nostalgia!'
'I love later life because through my involvement with Age NI, I can play my part in helping people of my age in our community. I have met many wonderful people, both fellow volunteers and Age NI staff.
'New avenues of endeavour have opened up such as the Age NI Consultative Forum, being part of the Danske Bank ‘Step by Step’ scheme, working as an Information Ambassador and peer facilitating. As well as getting involved with Age NI, joining the University of the Third age has brought me into contact with two groups of very articulate people who meet weekly to do play-reading and discuss a wide range of topical subjects.
'I am also involved with various bodies concerned with the delivery of health care particularly to older folk. My faith is very strong and my life long interest in photography, music, singing and reading continues.
'I leave you with this thought. While the mind can roam free, health and physical well being can and does impose restrictions on our activities. Nevertheless, do what you can and strive to develop a love for later life.'