This was the message speakers were eager to get across on UK Older People's Day in Ealing on Monday October 1. They challenged stererotypes of the elderly, saying many were active volunteers, making personal and economic contributions to society.
Many of the older volunteers had their work recognised when Ealing Mayor, Cllr Mohammad Aslam presented them with special certificates, including 107-year-old Lottie Laing, Ealing's oldest resident.
Lottie, who was joined by her daughter Viviane granddaughter Sigla and five great grandchildren, said: "I am very honoured, happy and privileged to be getting this certificate."
Around 50 organisations from across the borough, including St John's Ambulance, Ealing Fire Service, age concern and residents' groups, MP Steve Pound and opposition leader Cllr David Millican, were among the guests at the celebratory event at Christ the Saviour church hall, Ealing Broadway, Ealing.
Dr Rekha Elaswarapu, trustee of Age UK Ealing, which organised the day, said:"We are always hearing horrible stories about old people in care homes or being muggled on the street. Many are well into their 90s and helping out at various organisations and making Ealing a better place to live. Not everyone is sitting at home feeling miserable."
Her words were echoed by Prof Jill Manthorpe, professor of social work at Kings College, who said:"One fifth of over 80s are active volunteers but more can be done so they are not stuck in front of the box in care homes; the most isolating place in the country. We need to make sure they are part of the community so they can remain active."
She also dispelled some of the myths surrounding the elderly. She said:"They save the state £38 billion because so many are carers. They are not bankcrupting the health service; they are not big users of the health service unless they are very poorly. Age UK would not be able to function without older people."
Afua Kudom, from the Challenge Network, which encourages young people to make an impact on their communities, talked about recent experiences of young and old working together.
She said:"Many participants had never worked with older people before and afterwards said it had been an amazing experience.One said they realised they all had similar interests and another said:'how can we improve the future if we don't understand the past.'"
Pauline Hart, an Ealing police volunteer, condemned the way the elderly were viewed. She said:It's frustrating the way the Government and council treat the elderly; shutting down day centres. These are people who fought in the War, who saved this country and helped to re-build it." She also encouraged others to volunteer for what she described as a 'privileged job' with the Met.
Sean Bennett, Ealing Borough Commander London Fire Brigade, spoke about their free service to improve safety in the home and a ukulele band, from the Ellen Wilkinson School for Girls, provided the entertainment.