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In a couple of days I leave for Paris to attend the nineteenth

IAGG World Congress of gerontology and Geriatrics. I submitted an abstract for an oral presentation but I am only allowed to do

a poster. It contains a copy of the submitted abstract but is largely concerned

with the lack involvement of older people in research into ageing, and

conferences on ageing (parallel to men running research and conferences on women

100 years ago). This is what I would have said if my voice had been allowed to be heard:-

Introduction. Increasing life expectancy extends life beyond age 65,

often for decades. This research investigates optimum ways of spending those

years. Methodology.  The research initially produced a profile of people age

55+ using a reliable Australian data base (year 2003) with over 3500 respondents

in this age group. It looked at background information such as education, and

physical and mental health, finance and lifestyle issues, with over 80

questions, all answered by people in this age group. This data was later updated

using 2007 data from the same source. This defines what we mean by the term

‘ageing’, a definition which is usually missing, particularly in research done

by younger people. The research went on to look at successful agers, from centenarians, to

people who have had a successful career change in the later stage of

life; to interviews with seven outstanding, achieving, older

Australians.

Results. What emerged from this research is that older

people need a purpose in life, or short term and long term goals, or a lifeplan.

The research endorses the view that it is important to keep the brain

active in later life, and to feel part of the community. By having a purpose in

life, or equivalent, many parts of the brain are kept active, and older

people often fulfil an important role in the community. The idea of

retirement as being a time of relaxation, doing nothing, does little to

stop brain deterioration, often to the point of dementia. “Being busy”, the new

goal of older people, may not lead to a happy, healthy and successful last stage

of life.