By Nick Phillips, group chief executive, Community Impact Bucks
Clive James, the Australian journalist and writer (and many other things), once stated that ‘all good poets are frail and that to be a good poet one must be frail’. (If not those words exactly then close to it.) I thought about this for some time and challenged the statement in my mind with Wordsworth, who by all accounts must have been pretty nifty under foot to go dashing across the Lake District, and the war poets like Brooke, Owen and many others who were far from physical frailty when putting pen to paper. But perhaps Clive James was right in a way. Perhaps he was simply referring to the manifestation of age and experience as frailty.
We know that in Bucks we are looking at having a population of 115,000 over 65-year-olds and 15,000 over 85-year-olds in the next ten years. With an ageing population comes many challenges. According to Dementia UK this will mean at least 1 in 14 having to live with Alzheimer’s. Whenever these statistics are spoken of at a national or local level it seems in the context of an economically burdensome group of people who are draining the resources of the population. But are we looking at this situation the right way? Are we actually emerging into a world of wisdom? Is this a great opportunity for us to listen, to take time to share in the lessons learned over the decades? Are we in Buckinghamshire lucky enough to have a “wisening”, rather than ageing, population? (Or at least a pool of the greatest poets?)
As we plan for the next ten or twenty years, I think there is something in the way we look at, and respond to, the changes in demographics. Older people may not want to continue with paid work in their retirement but many volunteer their time and skills and, after 16-24-year-olds, our over 65’s are the greatest source of volunteering in Bucks. We may all learn to rely on the ageing population more than we think.