Report by Robin Lloyd-Jones

The Scottish Parliament's futures think-tank, Scotland's Futures Forum, looks beyond the electoral cycle to stimulate debate on the long-term challenges and opportunities that Scotland faces. One of this series of discussions was Scotland 2030: Growing older in Future Scotland. As the author/Editor of two books highly relevant to this topic (Autumn Voices: Scottish writers over 70 talk about creativity in later life and The New Frontier: making a difference in later life), I was invited onto the panel for this seminar.

Chaired by Ross Greer MSP, the seminar considered the experience of growing older in Scotland, the challenges and opportunities for the future, and the question of how an older population may change Scottish society by 2030.

Professor David Bell and Dr Elaine Douglas from the University of Stirling presented on the Healthy Ageing in Scotland project, a longitudinal study of people aged 50+ in Scotland. This presentation can be seen on video by clicking on Life in Future Scotland.

They were then joined in a panel discussion by writer Robin Lloyd-Jones and Robert McCall (a Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament) from Communic18, exploring questions of inter-generational relations, the future for older workers, and cultural position of older people in Scotland.
The panel discussion is not part of the video and no report is yet available. However, some of the points I recall making were:

  • Instead of seeing old people as a problem, we need to start seeing them as an asset. These are people who have greater maturity, more experience, deeper self-knowledge and a wider perspective than any other age-group.
  • We need to raise our expectations of what old people are capable of. Otherwise, negative attitudes and stereotypes about ageing become self-fulfilling prophecies.
  • We should beware of generalisations and ball-park statistics about ageing. There are adjacent postcodes in Glasgow, for example, where life expectation differs by twenty years.