Following the publication of Autumn Voices in June of this year, I have another book due out in late October: The New Frontier: Making a difference in later life.(Edited Robin Lloyd-Jones, ThunderPoint Publishing). It is based on in-depth interviews with 18 inspiring men and women in the UK in their 70s, 80s and 90s who have been winners or runners-up of the Times-Sternberg Award. This award, set up in 2008 by Sir Sigmund Sternberg, is made annually to men and women over 70 who are still making a positive contribution to society. The interviews were conducted in 2015 and 2016.
In the 20th century longevity in the Western World increased by 30 years, greater than the gain in the preceding 5,000 years of human history. We are still trying to catch up with the economic, political, social and personal implications of this hugely significant change in our society. A better understanding of what fuels an active later life is a key area of research for our future. A project which adds to the understanding of this is not only helping to improve quality of life, but also the productivity of an age group of growing economic importance. Rather than being a burden on society, increasingly, the contribution to our economy will have to come from those in their Third Age. A society that is better for older people is better for people of all ages. To address the potential of the elderly is to benefit the welfare of our society as a whole.
Lord Philip Hunt, Shadow Spokesman for Health and Care, in his Preface to the book, says: ‘The huge contribution that older people make to society is so well exampled in this excellent book. Each section is testimony to the ingenuity, and sheer determination of extraordinary people to contribute to society. It gives the lie to any idea that the older generations do not give back to society. We live in the most uncertain of times. The impacts of globalisation and climate change are still unfolding. The world of artificial intelligence is just around the corner with consequences few of us can fathom. And yet, the human spirit can surely be relied upon to see us through. This book is testimony to that spirit. It’s also a wonderful read.’
See who else is in the book
The 18 remarkable men and women I interviewed are:
Air Commodore Charles Clarke OBE, 92, served with the RAF during the Second World War and was interned in the Stalag Luft III prisoner-of-war camp, one of the last surviving men who was present when The Great Escape took place and was part of the Long March. He has dedicated his life to serving others, championing good causes and preserving the memory of those airmen who died in the war. President of the Royal Air Forces Ex-Prisoners of War Association; Chairman of the Bomber Command Association.
David Pearson, 79, formerly test pilot with Avro and then a British Airways pilot, Peter has spent his retirement drilling boreholes, constructing latrines and building bridges in the developing world. He has travelled to Sri Lanka, India, Uganda and Malawi, where his engineering and construction skills have benefited countless families.
Sylvia Holder, 78, founder of the Venkatraman Memorial Trust which aims to improve the education of the children of the poverty-stricken town of Kovalam, Kerala, India. She still works tirelessly for this cause.
Lord Baker, 81- Kenneth Baker, former Conservative MP – for his work in reviving technical colleges. Former Secretary of State for Education, former Chairman of the Conservative Party, Lord Baker set up and continues to run the Baker Dearing Trust to promote a new generation of technical schools to train teenagers to become builders, technicians and engineers.
Mavis Bamber, 76, created a lunch club for elderly people at her local church which every week provides a meal and friendship for up to 50 elderly people and much more.
Dame Esther Rantzen 75, set up the Silver Line helpline, a confidential helpline offering information, friendship and advice to older people. Earlier in her life Esther Rantzen set up ChildLine. She campaigns non-stop for these causes.
Janet Speight, 73, suffered a stroke in later life, resulting in severe aphasia, a communication disorder affecting speech writing and numbers. Despite this, she set up a highly successful aphasia support centre and chairs the Aphasia Associaiton.
Lawrence Coe, 90, founder member of Watford Three Rivers Refugee Project, and active volunteer worker with British Red Cross, and the City of Coventry Food Bank.
Alice Sluckin, OBE, 97, works with children on speech and language problems, especially selective mutism, an anxiety disorder that affects a child’s ability to speak in a social setting. She is the chair of the Selective Mutism Information and Research Association and was honoured with an OBE for services to Children and Families and for her publications.
Zdenka Fantlova, 93, Auschwitz and Belsen survivor, who, despite her age, uses this experience to travel the UK, Europe and USA to tell her story and promote positive citizenship.
Phoebe Caldwell, 83, did pioneering work with extreme autism and transforming the lives of thousands of families affected by autism across the UK and beyond and remains active in this field.
Patricia Bernie, 78, recognised for, throughout her life, offering charitable aid to those less fortunate than herself. An active Trustee Director at the Wythall Animal Sanctuary.
Peter J Harper,KCSG, 79. On retiring as a chartered accountant, he concentrated on charitable activities. Finance Director, then Chairman of Workaid; Chairman of the Maurice and Hilda Laing Charitable Trust which makes grants for the relief of poverty; patron and former trustee of Friends of the Belarusian Children’s Hosp;ice.
John Beavis, 76, is a former Commando Forces surgeon and a retired NHS Orthopaedic and Trauma surgeon who, after undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery in 1990, retired from the NHS and volunteered at the State Hospital in Sarajevo during the Bosnian war. In 2000 he became chairman of IDEALS, a charity dedicated to providing relief to victims of man-made and natural catastrophes around the world.
Sylvia Gilbert, 78, a former mayor of Monmouth and a volunteer for good causes all her life, her work still continues today with current roles including chairing Monmouth Action 50+, Monmouthshire council’s Community Transport Committee and the All-Wales Reference Group for Age Cymru.
John Lubbock OBE, 71, founder and principal conductor of the Orchestra of St John’s. As well as his regular concerts, he provides free concerts for children with autism and for elderly people suffering from dementia. John does a lot of work for Music for Autism and is also a Trustee for six charities which involve children, music and handicap.
John Robinson CBE, 75, former chair of Railtrack, of several major health care and pharmaceutical companies and of influential chemical engineering committees and associations. A major donor to charities and also former chair of the Abbeyfield Society who is still active in developing its scope.
Dr Neville Brown, 81, Headteacher of the Maple Hayes Dyslexia School. He has conducted groundbreaking research into dyslexia and continues to pioneer new ways of teaching dyslexic children with very positive results.
Ages given are as at time of interview.