I am fortunate to have clear memories of all four of my grandparents and even of two of my great grandparents. I had a very special relationship with one of my grandmothers, who died at the age of 95. Until a couple of years before her death, she was a wonderful source of wisdom and memories. I gained a great deal from her example. During recent research visits to Uganda and Ghana, I met many older people in the numerous farmer groups visited, who often reminded me of my Granny. They had the same interest in life and in other people, the same concern to be involved and help out. Many now found farming difficult but were still valued in the group as they cared for the younger children of other members, gave advice and counsel, prepared food or sold produce in the market. They often spoke of how much it meant to them to belong to their groups, knowing that if they were sick other members would care for them and how all the members would come to their funerals – something that brought them great comfort. Groups with members of varying ages were a powerful reminder both of the important role older people have to play and also of how much such involvement meant to older people.
This issue draws out many aspects of growing old with the opportunity to hear the views of a number of older people directly. Older people have much to share and contribute, though some also need particular practical or medical support as they age.