We need to take control of how we take part in society. Finding ways to interact within our Islington community not only gives us the opportunity to ‘love thy neighbour’, it combats loneliness and delivers a deep sense of purpose and worth.
As we age, we all strive to be, and remain for as long as physically possible, independent. More people are afraid of losing their independence as they grow older (49%) than of dying (29%), according to research by the Disabled Living Foundation (DLF). Yet, as we focus on our independence, we can sometimes lose sight of the importance that community and networks can play in our lives. Pride doesn’t necessarily come before a fall, but as our working life routine falls away, old friends die and family disperse, we need to be more intentional about cultivating networks and activities to engage in.
FROM INDEPENDENCE TO INTERDEPENDENCE
We need to move beyond the idea of ‘going it alone’ independence – which can ultimately result in loneliness and isolation. Humans survived the harshest of conditions from our earliest days by recognising that cooperation, shared resources, and the provision of mutual aid were at the heart of our success as a species.
Central to the concept of a ‘good’ old age is the notion of ‘interdependence’ and not ‘independence’ per se. An important aspect of interdependence is being a connected part of the community where our active contribution is valued and recognised.
Many older people point to the reality of interdependence with others – acting as valued members of supportive networks that are made up of friends, neighbours and family. Older people are often active in their communities and many are carers: one in six of all carers are older people themselves. Of these, around one-third support a spouse, one-fifth support a parent and just over one-fifth care for a friend or neighbour. Nearly 4.9 million people aged 65 and over in England take part in volunteering or local community activities. In the UK, four in every 10 people over retirement age volunteer regularly.
FINDING YOUR COMMUNITY
People have a tendency to associate community solely with volunteering. While volunteering is a fantastic way to contribute to your community, there are a myriad other ways that you can engage. A group, society or club perhaps, or a passion, hobby or pastime. By addressing a specific issue close to your heart you could create a historical legacy for future generations to enjoy.
The options are endless – which can also seem a little daunting to begin with. To aid you in finding your community spirit, we’ve compiled a selection of thought-provoking options. We also feature case studies from two community-minded individuals that show what can be achieved.
If we think carefully about how we can live more interdependently, the challenges of an ageing society can be turned from isolation into opportunity; delivering richer and more vibrant communities with older people playing their full part.
Here are a selection of obvious and out-of-the-ordinary suggestions that may help when considering how you’d like to connect with your community.
Anyone can volunteer. It can be very rewarding and is a great way to meet new people, gain new or use existing skills and make a big difference to your community.
There are lots of easy ways to give your time to help others – from having a cup of tea with an elderly neighbour, to helping out in your local area or making a regular commitment to volunteer with a charity or community group.
Do-it is a database of UK volunteering opportunities. You can search more than a million volunteering opportunities by interest, activity or location at www.do-it.org. You can also volunteer with Age UK, we have lots of opportunities to suit you. Why not think about becoming a Get Together host?
If you have a hobby, interest or skill Age UK can support you to create a class at the Drovers Activity Centre. Call 020 7281 6018 to speak with us about how you can get involved.
BECOME A BLOGGER
You don’t need to be a tech-wizard to start your own blog. You just need access to a computer, smartphone or tablet and an idea about the kind of blog you’d like to create. It could be a memoir, a selection of local stories or your thoughts on the ageing process. As your blog grows, you’ll find that you connect with more people to create your own community of like-minded friends.
For inspiration, why not take a look at Nicola Baird’s Islington faces blog (www.islingtonfacesblog.com). She interviews people who live or work in Islington and has created a fantastic social history of the borough in the process.
If you are unsure about how to get your blog up and running online, Talk to Age UK about attending a computer course. You’ll be posting in no time. Call 020 7281 6018 to speak with us about how we can help.
COME DINE WITH ME
Consider yourself a whizz in the kitchen? Why not host dinner parties through EatWith (www.eatwith.com). Hosting gives you the opportunity to share your home with new and interesting people; show off your culinary expertise while preparing your favourite dishes and supplementing your income.
If you want to become a host, you will need to create a host profile and then post your event (called an offering). When you create your offering, you also need to decide on a price to charge your guests. The better the offering is, the more interest you will receive from potential guests. Examples online at the moment include a pasta making class, traditional Spanish cooking and a four course Japanese vegan night. When the date arrives simply create your culinary masterpiece and enjoy your evening.
Calling all cooks. Could you bring a dish along to the Xmas community lunch at Drovers. Call 020 7281 6018 to speak with us about how you can get involved.
POSTAL PICK UP
If mobility is an issue, why not become a postal pick-up point for people in your neighbourhood. Simply ask a friend or family member to inform neighbours that you are available to accept post on their behalf if they are away on holiday or at work. When they come to pick up their parcels, it’s always a great excuse for a neighbourly chat.
We live in an ageing society where people are living longer and the balance of life is changing. For the first time, there are more people aged over 60 than children under 16 in the UK. Most older people can now look forward to many more years of healthy life after retirement than ever before.
By acting proactively and thinking about the positive steps we can take to connect with our community, older people can shape an environment in which they can thrive and live life to the full for as long as possible.