A couple of weeks ago I presented a paper at a regional conference on ageing in one of our coastal cities in Australia. It was a very pleasant, friendly affair although as usual most of the speakers, and the audience, were younger people whose knowledge of ageing is limited. One of the major presenters appears to be a leading expert on housing for older people. I heard another speaker on the same topic some months ago who had worked to adapt a ‘grandad’ flat for his elderly father-in-law and the latter was far more knowledgable as a result of the practical experience. I asked the speaker at the Ballina conference why the government didn’t put solar panels on housing for older people to cut down on fuel bills for them. I was told that they are not satisfactory as eventually they rust. I hadn’t the heart to point out to her that the word ‘eventually’ is a word that is relevant to younger people like herself but not to older people. It is like the life insurance salesman who tried to sell his product to an older person and was told ‘Young man, at my age I don’t even buy green bananas’!

Next week I go to Melbourne to the IFA conference to present a paper on lifestyle choices for successful and healthy ageing. I doubt if that will be as well received. I argue for a better deal for older people so that we can achieve in the later stage of life. This includes conferences on ageing being run by older people, just as conferences on women’s issues are now run by women (many decades ago they were run by men). The Melbourne conference doesn’t even have a discount for pensioners. Add to that travel and accommodation and few pensioners will be able to attend. This is in marked contrast to those who will be attending who will have all expenses paid for by their employers.

The only person I have met who agrees with me on the issue of conferences on ageing being run by the ageing is the International President of the University of the Third Age who also thought the present setup somewhat ridiculous. He was at the conference in Paris last year which didn’t seem to impress many people. I got pushed out of the way by a younger attendee at the opening welcome!

The main Melbourne conference is followed by a mini-conference on age friendly cities which should be good. It is a concept that all cities should strive for. Age friendly cities are friendly for all age groups and bring humanity back into them.

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