As old as my tongue and as age friendly as my teeth


We often use the term ‘I feel old’ rather than ‘I am old’. Maybe there’s something telling in how we express our age. My gran always dodged the age question by responding with “I’m as old as my tongue and a little older than my teeth.” Never would she tell us her age.

In six months I will be 50. Five. Zero. That’s a notably half decent number in cricketing terms but not so much if you were playing darts. I suppose it’s a significant number, as is any birthday with the zero on the end, apparently.

When I fill forms in I know that shortly I won’t be in the 45-49 category anymore but I’ve never really felt different because I’ve reached a certain age. With everything I’m involved in at work with colleagues and at home with family and friends, I’ve really not thought about it as ‘the big Five O’. Until today that is.

Every year, people around the world recognise 1st October as International Day of Older People (IDOP). On my work to do list is a task to help promote what is going on in Leeds to celebrate IDOP. So we had a chat in the office about what we thought defines being an ‘older person’ and what would constitute ‘celebrating’ being old, if indeed that is what people who deem themselves older would actually want. A colleague suggested it wasn’t necessarily about reaching a specific age such as 60 or 70 but it perhaps depended on who was considering it. Her thoughts were that it was anybody who is 20 years older than you. That made sense.

So I looked round the office for people who might be 20 years younger than me. There’s a couple who are probably 30 years younger and just starting out in their working lives. Ouch! Do they consider me old or an older person? Do I consider myself as old? Obviously not, although if I don’t take a cod liver oil tablet every day, I feel it more than I used to and people’s headphones seem to be increasingly annoying me on the bus.

My upcoming birthday and the day for older people are supposed to be purposely significant. But in reality they are just one day in 365. They might even be days that some don’t want to be reminded of. My mum perhaps! Imagine your child getting to 50.

Further down my work to do list, there’s another task; support promotion of Leeds as an Age Friendly City. My first thoughts were here we go again Dementia Friendly, Child Friendly, Best City for Health and Wellbeing, Better Lives and now Age Friendly. To some it might seem all the same thing and who really decides what is or isn’t friendly or best or age related and surely there’s some overlap? And do all these perceived strap lines help or hinder explaining what’s on offer? Well, it’s my job to offer support in this area. So I took myself off to a local cafe for a think and to read the background about Age Friendly.

Backed by the World Health Organisation, the Age Friendly Cities Programme is an international effort to help cities prepare for two global demographic trends: the rapid ageing of popula­tions and increasing urbanisation. The programme targets the environmental, social and economic factors that influence the health and wellbeing of older adults.Things like;

·         outdoor spaces and buildings;

·         transportation;

·         housing;

·         social participation;

·         respect and social inclusion;

·         civic participation and employment;

·         communication and information; and

·         community support and health services.

There’s more info available here.

What I did note was by 2020 it is predicted there will be roughly 9,000 men and 22,000 women over the age of 75 living in Leeds. Over 30,000. It’s not really that many when compared against the 900,000+ folk who may be living here by then however it becomes really significant when I add the last two words of the sentence; ‘living alone’. There will be more over 75s not living alone but Age UK suggest nationally around 1 million older people regularly go an entire month without speaking to anyone. On their own. Forgotten.

The real issue is about what being an older person means for those 75+ year olds – specifically being alone. It is well documented with the national campaign against loneliness stating being lonely or socially isolated can have the same effect on a person’s health and wellbeing as smoking 15 cigarettes a day does on physical health. Not good. And people of any age can be lonely or socially isolated too.

So can Leeds really be Age Friendly or Child Friendly when there are this many lonely people? In thinking about it, talking and asking what these things mean to different folk, we get a better understanding so we can combat loneliness and the other things that Leeds can be better at. The bullet points above which help put context to any strap lines they sit under.

I realised when I was in the cafe reading about the Age Friendly concept and thinking about how helpful a strap line it might or might not be, that I’d not thought about my impending 50th. That’s a good thing and probably because, and I’m lucky and thankful, I have good health, great colleagues, and caring family and friends. My parents both still play golf twice a week, something I aspire to. It made me think. What will Leeds be like in 2040 when I’m 75 and 2065 if I knock off the full century? Will it be ready for many more centurians?

I can see how others might not have health or luck, whether 75, 50 or 20 they may be lonely. I also see that tackling loneliness doesn’t solely lie at the door of a department or organisation just because it has the name Adults or Children’s in the title, it’s becoming a shared responsibility and one where people also need to help themselves to keep as fit and healthy as possible.

I can also see it’s not necessarily about what it means to be an older or younger person but perhaps more about how we experience and react to things happening to us and around us. And perhaps also about realisation that these experiences and reactions may change for us over time. Things don’t just happen at certain ages.

This year the IDOP theme is around culture; another term that’s not so easy to define but maybe that’s an advantage and no doubt will help the city in planning whether to go for the Leeds 2023 European Capital of Culture bid.

IDOP for me is not so much about celebrating but about including people and ensuring we make Leeds the best it can be, whatever age we are.

As for my love of straplines, perhaps I’ll mellow with age!

It’s about telling the story behind the title. I see this one now as it will become my story and fortunately; it’s my job to tell it.

I do however like how Leeds Older People’s Forum describe it; ‘a city for all ages’.

The kite


I was rummaging around in our box of family photos, (from before digital!) when I came across this image. One of those chance shots that captured everything. So I took a photo of it with my phone, made it square and there it is; digital.

The broadening mind of a credible activist


‘Travel broadens the mind’; that’s what they say isn’t it?

However, use words like ‘disruptor’ or ‘activist’ when talking about organisational development or business change and there will probably be a few eyebrows raised.

“Disruption! – we’ll have none of that round here thank you kindly even though we want to change things”

This post has been brewing for a while and will probably come across as a bit of a ramble as it’s work in progress and my thinking out loud. But it needs to be born and I’ve learned if you wait til things are perfect they won’t be or they won’t still be relevant. So it’s a ‘think piece’; a beta post; exactly what the blog was created for; to unpick what happens in that grey area between work and home. Please do comment or put me right!

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Urban dream or realist reality?

20140726_155818Seldom do I go anywhere without noticing comparisons or otherwise to where I live or places I know. I’ve always had this fascination about how places come to be and how they change or adapt. I suppose it comes from my liking of geography at school which lead me to study land use.

This year’s summer hols were no different. We went to Zakopane in south Poland and spent some time in and around Kraków. I tend to share photos of my travels when I’m out and about, hoping others might find what I share interesting or useful in some way; my way of attempting to make the world a smaller place perhaps.

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Little boxes

A61 sign

They say ‘build it and they will come’ however I spend most of my working day convincing folk that’s bunkum. Tell people something is being built, explain why, invite them to be involved; then they might come and even tell others.

It’s been a week since 198 cyclists paraded along my street. I say my street because from my house I can see the place where me and my family stood in the central reservation of the  A61 to watch the Tour de France pass by. It’s the street down which I get the bus most days into Leeds where I work. It’s the street up which I brought my youngest son home after he was born. It’s our street.

The estate is bordered by Scott Hall Road to the east, along which the Tour de France will come.

This is my view every morning as I wait for the bus. There’s usually a fair bit of traffic. Last Saturday however, the road was closed all day in both directions. The Tour de France came by in the outward lane and on the inward lane, children played on their bikes and people walked in the road without worrying about traffic.


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Will digital love tear us apart?


‘Love will tear us apart’ is the title of a classic song by Joy Division. Apparently, the last song ever performed by Joy Division was called ‘Digital’. It was the final song of the last gig recorded on 2 May 1980 in Birmingham.

Sort of ironic that I spent Saturday 21 June 2014 in the same city debating most things local government and seemingly sharing the love of digital.

I attended #localgovcamp; an unconference. These are different to traditional conferences in that whilst there’s an overall theme, you don’t have a pre-set programme of speakers or sessions and you certainly don’t get preached at for the whole time.

The day is split into sessions and attendees pitch for what sessions they want to run or topics they might want to find out more about, if they are prepared to lead a session. That’s an important distinction. If it was all the former then it might be more a conference, without attendee input. The important point being if it isn’t the session you thought it was going to be, and your input can’t make a difference; then you can freely up sticks and go find another session that might be more up your street.

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A river runs through it


That’s the title of a 1992 film based on a 1976 book by Norman Maclean about family life during the early 20th century in Montana. Their views of life are filtered through their passion for fly fishing. The book and film are presented from the point of view of older brother Norman who goes on one last fishing trip with his rowdy and troubled younger brother Paul in an attempt to help him get his life on track; the river being the focus to engage with a number of profound metaphysical questions.

So why is it relevant?

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