Sunday, 20 March 2016

Doing 60 something, but not Viagra, Cocaine or Bingo in the Slow Lane of Life

I have to say I absolutely enjoyed reading Carol Midgley’s column in the Times last Wednesday. It was a piece about why men in their sixties are going wild, using as its hook the story of Professor Nicholas Goddard (61). He resigned from his post as Professor of Analytical Science at Manchester University last week, after being outed as a porn star. Apparently, 60 is very much the new 30. Sixtysomethings are said to feel a spring in their step which leaves younger people lagging behind. It appears that unlike the millennial generation, we baby boomers benefited from free healthcare, education, decent pensions and affordable housing. And now, divorce, widowhood, Viagra, cruises and the silver pound are all helping to drive what is fast becoming a new age of hedonism - that is being 60-70 years old in 2016. 

I don’t always read the Times newspaper, but I was travelling back from London and it was a paper left behind by a fellow passenger. The evening before I had attended an Alumni reception at the Houses of Parliament. Now being a Sixtysomething myself I found the prospect of going inside the House of Commons for such an event quite exciting. I wasn’t disappointed either. Even the hassle of getting through the very tight security was, in its own way, exciting.  

The event was sponsored by the Salford and Eccles MP – Rebecca Long Bailey and was attended by a large group of influential alumni and donors, along with senior colleagues from across the university. The conversations were good and the buzz in the room electric. However all good things must come to an end and as we left the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben struck 10 o’clock (22.00 in new money). It was a magical end to a wonderful evening. Whilst some of the party felt the night was still young, others drifted off to bed.

I was in the half of the party that was hungry and not quite ready for bed. However the restaurants around the hotel all appeared to close their kitchens at 10.30pm and so we were reduced to eating peanuts with our glass of wine as we put the worlds to right. Midnight seemed to arrive very quickly and the 06.15 train back to Manchester even quicker. Wednesday was midway through week 7 of my new role, and I was really pleased to have a brilliant workshop meeting with our VC that confirmed we were both on the same page in terms of the ambition and reach of our University ICZ Programme.

Likewise, last Thursday evening saw me out to dinner with the Deans Group, which provided a further opportunity to test out my thinking and gain some much valued feedback. I also got to hear some constructive and creative ideas as to what might be achievable. I was buoyed up with the huge enthusiasm and passion of the group as we discussed a wide range of possibilities. The way forward has to be through co-creation and the Deans Group are definitely up for it!

I was by far the older person in the group – something I will come back to in a moment. Last Friday mornings meetings included a great opportunity to meet with the Trustees from the Dowager Countess Eleanor Peel Trust. This is an organisation that has been so generous in their support for our Institute of Dementia. Last Friday’s meeting was an opportunity to bring the Trust up to speed with the work of the Institute and our plans for the future. The Institute contributes to one of 2 global challenges (Ageing; and Energy) that the University is committed to addressing.  

Ageing is a global issue. Locally its estimated that by 2030, 14% of the population of Greater Manchester will be over the age of 75 years old, and already 20% of those aged between 50 and 65 are out of work. The demographics are worrying to say the least. Buts that’s not all that worrying. Let’s not forget the starting point of this blog posting. Public Health England data, published last year revealed that a random test of Bingo Hall toilets found them to be awash with cocaine, and that 634 pensioners aged 65+ had required treatment for drug addiction, a 20% increase on the previous 12 months. Viagra, cocaine, red wine and rock ‘n’ roll, hmmm, I don't think so, I’m beginning to enjoy the view from the quiet lane…