On Tuesday it was my 60th birthday and I was asked several times do you feel your age or just 6 years to retirement then (66 for me). This so called significant birthday hasn't affected how i view life, I don't feel 60 at all and despite a few aches and pains its life as usual
I have come across a few people that do look and feel older than 60 and they seem to have lost a spark for life. Time is after all just numbers its your outlook on life that's important. One thing that I have held onto is a sense of wonder , Shetland has so much waiting to be discover, life is exciting here, people so friendly and you are also so close to nature no longer wrapped up in a hectic lifestyle of city life, that slows down the pace of life and creates a new sense of being.
I am now experiencing many things in Shetland that before i could only read about , and as a photographer its great that I can share my experiences through the photos I take, either on the web ,as part of a group illustrated talk or through teaching photography
So one thing that I now can apply for, is a Shetland Island Travel pass, this is 6 years earlier than it would have been in Sheffield. I am also contributing to the statistics , or to a time bomb ready to go off in Shetland in 2037. This is the date when Shetland will have nearly half of the population as pensioners even though the population is set to grow between now and 2037.
Many older people are written off and are considered as a drain on the system, but they have much to offer. I work with the care of old people and many are still very active in the community, spending many unpaid hours boosting community care. Yes money may be a problem, anyone being referred to a care home would expect to pay £1,000 per week in Shetland, double that of Sheffield. This money needs to be spent wisely along with other money from the Charity Trust. Even with cut backs the support and quality of care in Shetland is far better than other places in the UK.
People do live older in Shetland and for some can be very active, we remember one lady we met in Fetlar many years ago who was out gathering her vegetables , at 94 year old. The other day, i had the pleasure in meeting a 95 year old man who was so enthusiastic about life, and yes he had a keen interest in wildlife.
On the other side of life, the suicide rate in Shetland among the older people is the highest anywhere. Not a cheery thing to take about , but the people at Mind your Head provide a great service and support to those in need. Shetland is different to Sheffield in that everyone seems to know every-ones business which has its good and bad points. Also some people are very private and don't ask for help as they feel that they don't deserve it.
Working for the Royal Voluntary Service has helped me gain an insight into the care system and most important the Shetland people. Also delivering photography courses for Shetland Adult Education enables me to see that there is still a thirst for knowledge and a chance to rekindle a Sense of Wonder