Dr Anna Dixon (MSc in Health Policy, Planning and Financing, 1998) is the current Chief Executive for the Centre for Ageing Better and has released the book ‘The Age of Ageing Better?: A Manifesto for our Future’. Here, she explains her motivation behind the book and what advice she would give to current students.
“My motivation for writing this book was to make a difference in the world. In my position as Chief Executive of the Centre for Ageing Better, I have access to so much rich knowledge and insights that I wanted to share. In my role I can only do something for the 50-odd people who work in my organisation, but everyone can make a difference where they work if they have the knowledge and drive.
“We often underestimate how long we will live. On average we will live 10 years more than our parents’ generation and 20 years longer than our grandparents’ generation. This together with falling birth rates in many countries means the age shift is happening fast and the face of our population is changing with more people living at older ages. While this age shift will present some challenges, I believe we should be tackling this issue with the same urgency as global issues like climate change. Now is the time for action to ensure growing numbers of people in later life can live happier, healthier, more financially secure lives and are able to contribute fully to society. There is much we can and need to do as individuals.
“Through youth and middle age, we need to think about the pattern of our working lives, including the potential to work for longer, retrain or work more flexibly. We need to manage our finances throughout life with a realistic view about how long we might live. And, of course, try to stay healthy and fit, find time for friends, think about where we’ll live, and how we’ll keep active and make a contribution.
“So this book is for those of you who believe in society and want everyone to enjoy a good later life. People who want to make a difference not only for your own future, but for that of generations to come. This book assesses the current situation, challenging some of the arguments put forward, and reviewing the evidence and facts. I consider the implications if we carry on as we are and make the case for change. I look at some of the solutions available to us and how different things could be if we had the courage to act.
“My advice for students is that ageing is something that happens to us all and impacts every aspect of our lives – work, homes, families and communities. If you want to improve global health you need to promote healthy ageing. It is possible to delay the onset of disability and disease and to extend the period we spend in good health and free of disability in later life. We have made huge improvements in life expectancy, now we must focus on making more of those extra years healthier and happier.
“This is a very strange and challenging time for everyone. Our world, for the time being, may have changed beyond recognition but it has shown us that courageous decisions by governments can save lives and protect people’s health and livelihoods. I am not naïve enough to imagine that all the changes I advocate in this book can be implemented easily, because some require bold economic and political decisions. But I am hopeful that this book will inspire individuals as well as policy makers to do more and do better.”