Glad to be grey

July 30, 1999

Raymond Tallis's article on the positive aspects of ageing is to be applauded ("Old faces, new lives", THES, July 9). Practically all models of ageing take it for granted that old age is a process of rather rapid decline from the age of retirement, even though the retirement age itself is a statutory fiction in our society. Those of us who know something about being older also know that it is not very different from being younger despite the terminal stages that can interrupt the life course at any time, albeit most often after 70.

But sadly there is not a lot of resource or energy being put into improving the image of ageing. There really is no "joined up" policy on ageing in government circles. That is why we set up Mature Enterprise Support a couple of years ago and started the Wisdom programme to benefit older people by building positively on their experience and wealth of learning.

Through our Prime pilot programme in north Staffordshire we are opening up opportunities for older people to engage in business enterprise and improve employment prospects well beyond official retirement age. We are negotiating similar schemes elsewhere.

We are cooperating with adult residential colleges and universities to create a new approach to university-level learning that is organised around the skills and aptitudes of older learners but uses a different set of values from the dominant school-university adolescent model.

We have to look on ageing as a positive, creative, lively and rewarding period in our lives that will last longer for many than our youthful and middle years.

Harry Gray Professor and chair, MES, Lancaster

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