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It’s hard to realise that I am nearing the end of four and a half  years of research into healthy ageing. I have read and learned, and experienced, so much, it is hard to know what to put into my thesis and what needs to be left out. One of the people I interviewed, a Professor in Sociology, agreed to look at it for me, which has been a great help.

I was also advised to read another book on the subject, written 20 years ago, about the situation regarding ageing in England, which made me even more determined to write a less academic book about where we should be heading with ageing in Australia. It would be applicable  in other developed countries. We are retired for so long these days it is important that we plan wisely, particularly as it is a time when our brain cells die and we need to counteract this.

When I was in high school I was much younger than the other students in my class. I was still drawing stick figures when they had moved on. Their laughter left me with the impression that I was no good at art so next year, with my thesis out of the way, I hope to have another go at it, as it is something I enjoy. I want to learn book binding first, and write the book I just mentioned, and will become a grandmother, so I don’t know how many of my plans will still be on my list this time next year! It’s better to have a long list than no list at all!

I hope the world will try to achieve peace, and work together to protect our planet in 2010. It is much easier to achieve our personal plans when the world around us is calm and stable. We have enough problems with natural disasters and an uneven distribution of food without adding to the problems by fighting each other.

As I near the end of my research I am becoming more aware of how few older researchers there are in ageing, and how the younger researchers are getting it so wrong.

The latest edition of the ANU Reporter, a publication from Australia’s leading University (ranked 19th in the world) contains a quote from one of their leading researchers, a younger woman, in this field. She is quoted as saying ‘Keeping the mind sharp through crosswords and other puzzles is one likely contributor to healthy ageing’. Crossword puzzles were discredited a few years ago at another Australian University as only keeping a small part of the mind healthy. This is also a part-time solution to a full-time problem.

My research has shown that for successful and healthy ageing we need to have a purpose in life, such as continuing with work, part-time or full-time, or have a new career or hobby which we really enjoy, and which takes up a substantial part of our lives.

Retirement, if taken near age 65 years, can span 20 or 30 years and it needs more than just doing puzzles to be fulfilling and to keep most of the mind active. There is a lot of negative publicity about the ageing and if we are seen to be doing something exciting and worthwhile then this negativity will have even less foundation.

In the UK, applicants for grants for ageing research now have to include older people on their research team. As older people are trained for this they will become aware of how inaccurate much of the current research is and how much will have to be scrapped as older people tell ageing as it is. We need to fast track this to save money.

You’d think we would have learnt from mistakes with women’s issues in the past, and research into coloured people,which still is often done solely by non-coloured people. Involving the target audience at every stage in any field of research should be compulsory- we’ve known for years that it is necessary for accurate results.