Age is no reason to put away your placards
Getting On? Then it's your chance to shine.
Any article is meant to persuade you to fall in with the writer's point of view, so before I start trying to twist your arm, let's spell out a few facts. What do pensioners do for the country? Not a lot?
Well, apart from contributing through taxes, volunteering, caring for others and possessing spending power worth a hefty £40 billion a year, a figure which is projected to grow to £77 billion by 2030. With over two million retirees over 60 volunteering, I'd say they contribute quite a lot. Don't take my word for it, you can look it up in the Gold Age Pensioners Report, published by the Royal Voluntary Service.
Have you been down your high street lately? I'll bet you've seen grandparents pushing the buggies and standing outside schools for the pick-up at 3pm. And if you go into hospital, who do you see pushing the library trolley, serving teas and sandwiches, taking down hospital radio requests?
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Yes, it's us again.
I say us because I'm one of those volunteering retirees. At 74, I spent more than 70 hours last month doing voluntary work for Bristol Older People's Forum, which won the national Community Organisation Award for Age.
Why do I do it? What's in it for me? And why am I out collecting signatures for a National Pensioners Convention petition to keep universal benefits for pensioners?
The thing about old people is that you are just the same person as you always were – only older. If you marched against the bomb in your teens and 20s, or fought for people's rights, or went to Greenham Common to tell the Yanks to take their bomb home, then you'll still want to campaign for things you believe in at 60, 70 or 80.
One of my biggest inspirations was Bill Nicholls, who was still campaigning as a member of BOPF at 90.
For most people there is a genuine altruistic desire to help others and to make things better, but it's also good to get out, meet other people, feel you've done something worthwhile, have a laugh, or a moan, and a natter. So, there is a lot in it for me, and I believe there coud be for you as well.
It's a case of use that brain or lose it. Our generation, we over-70s, were children in a war. We learnt to do without, to make do and mend, to save until we could afford to buy.
We were doing recycling years before it was fashionable. And we worked to make things better for our children. But it often didn't leave much time to do things we wanted to do. Maybe you always wanted to paint, but your dad thought it was sissy. Maybe you wanted to be a singer, but you had to earn a crust. Maybe you wanted to study but you only realised that after bunking off at school.
The good thing about getting old is that now it is time for you. If lessons cost too much, get to a pound shop and buy kids' paints. Join a choir and start singing your heart out. If there isn't a choir near you, stick an advert in your corner shop and invite people to come and sing with you. Choose a subject to study and if you don't have a computer ask your local library to help you get onto the internet. Join a book reading group and discuss things with others. Just do it.
We deserve the right to be treated properly; the right to be warm in our old/cold age, the right to the free bus pass. That pass is important because it gets us out of the house, saves the environment from petrol fumes and saves the NHS spending money on treatments for depression.
If you feel strongly about something, don't just sit there, do something. Even if it's just to write a song. Here's my effort which was played at the awards ceremony.
"We're not all Alan Sugar, we're not all filthy rich, but though we have a roof and don't live in a ditch, we still do need our bus pass to help us on our way, so come on politicians, the free bus pass must stay!"
You think you can do better? Great! Get out there and start campaigning! Get volunteering! Society needs you!