Ageing naturally

Growing old as a member of an eco-village has its perks, writes Findhorn resident Rhiannon Hanfman.

Following on with the theme of the ageing population of Findhorn and (everywhere else, really) I would like to approach it from the perspective of one of 60s generation who is now in her sixties. Since it was we who instigated the cult of youth and coined the phrase ‘don’t trust anyone over thirty’, we can hardly complain if there are those who now feel that there are way too many old people around, and that this is somehow a bad thing. It is the natural order of things that the old make way for the young, who in turn will become old and make way for the next generation. What is different now, however, is the timing of it. People are living longer and staying active longer.

Is this a bad thing? Perhaps, if you are young and want to find your place in a world full of oldies who won’t get out of the way.

Over that past two decades I have seen the demographic pattern change in accordance with the state of the community. When the community was young, most of the people were in their twenties and single. They were enthusiastic and energetic. They didn’t mind roughing it or sleeping six to a caravan because, hey, they were building the new age and having a ball doing it. Most didn’t stay long and moved on. Those that did aged along with the community.

When I arrived in the 80s I, like almost everyone else, was in my forties. There were a handful of older people, a few young people and even families with young children. We bemoaned the fact that we were a middle-aged community, and even worse, that there were hardly any men. I would say that no more than 20 – 30 per cent of the population was male. It seemed at the time that men weren’t that interested in spiritual journeys and self-exploration. The focus of the community at that time was personal growth, which appealed predominantly to forty-something women.

In 1990 I left for five years. When I returned things had changed enormously for the better. The energy had shifted to environmental concerns like building energy-efficient housing and creating the eco-village. Whereas when I left there had only been the Foundation, there was now a vibrant outer community surrounding it. The boundaries were dissolving as people who shared the Findhorn ethic but didn’t want to join the Foundation arrived. They created their own projects and businesses. As a result, there were more men, more young people and more families. The demographic is now far more normal, but there is still the issue of a large ageing population here as elsewhere. We have to get used to it and begin to see it as an asset rather than a problem. Believe it or not, the old do have something to offer.

We all have to get old somewhere, and some of us are doing it at Findhorn. It’s an excellent place for that, and the reason is that age doesn’t matter. In all my time here it has never been an issue in the friendships I have formed or the work I have done. For example, I designed the Foundation brochure for four years. I was sixty-two when I got the job, although nobody asked. Would I have obtained a job in graphic design, a field that is dominated by the young, in the ‘real’ world? I doubt it. And where else would I be invited to a 30th birthday party and seriously be expected to come?

There are a lot of older people here but they are active and engaged and don’t view the community as a retirement home. There is an easy flow between the generations that happens here that I like. The varied perspectives and strengths of people at different stages of life’s journey complement one another to the benefit of all.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Who will win in Manchester Gorton?

Will Labour lose in Manchester Gorton?

The death of Gerald Kaufman will trigger a by-election in his Manchester Gorton seat, which has been Labour-held since 1935.

Coming so soon after the disappointing results in Copeland – where the seat was lost to the Tories – and Stoke – where the party lost vote share – some overly excitable commentators are talking up the possibility of an upset in the Manchester seat.

But Gorton is very different to Stoke-on-Trent and to Copeland. The Labour lead is 56 points, compared to 16.5 points in Stoke-on-Trent and 6.5 points in Copeland. (As I’ve written before and will doubtless write again, it’s much more instructive to talk about vote share rather than vote numbers in British elections. Most of the country tends to vote in the same way even if they vote at different volumes.)

That 47 per cent of the seat's residents come from a non-white background and that the Labour party holds every council seat in the constituency only adds to the party's strong position here. 

But that doesn’t mean that there is no interest to be had in the contest at all. That the seat voted heavily to remain in the European Union – around 65 per cent according to Chris Hanretty’s estimates – will provide a glimmer of hope to the Liberal Democrats that they can finish a strong second, as they did consistently from 1992 to 2010, before slumping to fifth in 2015.

How they do in second place will inform how jittery Labour MPs with smaller majorities and a history of Liberal Democrat activity are about Labour’s embrace of Brexit.

They also have a narrow chance of becoming competitive should Labour’s selection turn acrimonious. The seat has been in special measures since 2004, which means the selection will be run by the party’s national executive committee, though several local candidates are tipped to run, with Afzal Khan,  a local MEP, and Julie Reid, a local councillor, both expected to run for the vacant seats.

It’s highly unlikely but if the selection occurs in a way that irritates the local party or provokes serious local in-fighting, you can just about see how the Liberal Democrats give everyone a surprise. But it’s about as likely as the United States men landing on Mars any time soon – plausible, but far-fetched. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.