In our work to understand the wider implications of Living Longer we have received invaluable insight from one particular focus group – predominantly made up of people in their 80s – they represent the last of the War Generation. Most were born in the 1930s so were too young to serve but most of the men undertook National Service and all can remember the austerity that followed victory.
This generation lacks the brash confidence of the Baby Boomers that followed, but have enjoyed much of the same good fortune. They have benefitted from the peace dividend, improving health, the boom in property prices, near full employment followed by generous pensions. Now in the final stage of life they have become the ‘New Frontier’, leading the way into a stage of life that most had never expected to experience.
When asked about their life today the most frequent response was ‘If I had known when I was 60 that I would be fit and well at 85 I would have played less bridge/golf/bingo and done something more worthwhile’. In short they are surprised to find themselves alive and well and many of them now feel they have missed a huge opportunity – but not all. Amongst their number are a few who, by nature or design, have recognised the opportunity early and for the last 20 years have sought to make the most of every day. These few are the role models, not only for the generations that follow, but also their peers.
Focus group members were candid – they provided examples of where things went wrong – not taking part, not looking after their health, loneliness, fear of spending their money etc. They were also aware of who in their number were getting it right – even if they were not able to emulate them.
So it is this generation that has pointed the way. While they may have been surprised to find themselves fit and well in their 80s, and some have struggled to adapt, their insight into what is truly important in life has been invaluable – thank you to them all!