Cherish the grey army of volunteers – none of us would survive without their dedication

As the population increases and we're living longer, we shouldn't worry about our ageing population, but think about what they contribute.

Share

Within the next 10 years, the global population of oldsters (defined by the UN as over-60s) will reach one billion. There are already more over-60s than under-fives on the planet, which explains why films like Hope Springs – in which Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones rekindle the romance – and Dustin Hoffman’s upcoming Quartet (set in the world’s nicest old people’s home) are playing in cinemas while In the Night Garden is not.

And this is surely good news. Yes, over-60s have fewer years of working and paying taxes ahead of them than under-fives. But on the plus side, they rarely scream, they are almost never covered in chocolate spread, and they are much more likely to give you a sweet than demand one.

I have just returned home from a weekend at Wigtown Book Festival (if you are near Galloway this week, go – it is brilliant. They have masses of lovely bookshops and fields of stripey cows). We got used to cheering the volunteers who ensured that the Olympics ran so smoothly, but without the volunteer power of the over-60s all year round, I’m not sure any book festival would happen.

Wigtown is no exception. Volunteers pick authors up from the nearest station, which is miles away. They turn up early so you don’t stand out in the cold, and drop you back with enough time to buy a sandwich before you hop on a train. They ferry you around, and they can do this because they’re retired.

Politicians worry about our ageing population but surely we should think more positively about what they contribute, as the UN has: its report is titled Ageing in the 21st Century: a Celebration and a Challenge.

My mother works one day a week at her local hospital, helping to organise other volunteers to do ward visits, and generally make the place a bit happier. The NHS has thousands of people like her, which must save doctors and nurses a lot of time, while costing the system nothing. Meanwhile, Wigtown has a population of around 1,000 people: the book festival is an economic boon for the whole town. And without Basil, who retired in 1989 and cheerfully drove me to Carlisle (a two-hour journey), they’d struggle to get authors there and back. So here’s to the oldsters: we couldn’t do it without you.

***

Don’t trick me with your texts

How many texts have you received offering you a payout for that accident you had, or the Payment Protection Insurance you were gulled into taking out? I get about one a month, in spite of being largely accident-free and never having had payment protection insurance. So I’m delighted to see that the Information Commissioner’s Office is acting against spam texters.

Somehow a spam text is disproportionately more annoying than a spam email. I think it’s the jaunty alert. It sounds like it must be a friend. And then when it’s some random spammer, I’m irritated that I’ve been disturbed, and disappointed that the disturbance didn’t come from someone I like. We live in a world of near-constant communication, so acting against those who clog it up can only be a good thing.

www.nataliehaynes.com

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Today is a bigger Shabbes than usual in the Jewish world because it has been chosen to launch the Shabbos Project  

Shabbes exerts a pull on all Jews, and today is bigger than ever

Howard Jacobson
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker