THE BLOG
14/11/2013 08:49 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:56 GMT

Remembrance Is for Looking Forward, as Well as Back

It is easy to look on your younger years through a softer lens. We talk of 'those halcyon days'; we tell children 'school days are the best days of your lives'. It is not a natural human trait to live only for today, or to ignore the lure of greener grass.

Watching the annual Remembrance Day services is always a humbling experience. As we near the centenary of the start of the Great War, the need to keep alive the memories of the contributions made by so many in our armed forces seems ever more pertinent.

But as I watched those army veterans, Chelsea pensioners and acting servicemen on parade, I was struck by the positivity and optimism of the whole experience. Remembrance Day has become as much about looking forwards as looking back; honouring, even celebrating, the strength of the few in defending the freedoms of the many.

We are often told that Britain's older generation is the backbone of our country. Young children born today will not be able to hear personal accounts of living through the Blitz or the hardships of Digging for Victory. But many will be fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from grandparents and even great grandparents, who enjoyed rich lives in eras before the discovery of iPads and the Higgs boson.

It is easy to look on your younger years through a softer lens. We talk of 'those halcyon days'; we tell children 'school days are the best days of your lives'. It is not a natural human trait to live only for today, or to ignore the lure of greener grass.

But as I looked to those servicemen marching proudly for everything they believe in, I was struck by the sense of contentment - honour to be representing those who have gone before. Tinged of course with sobriety, but no sign of regret.

In our last Silver Census, we set out to ask Britain's over 65s how happy they really are. The 'Victor Meldrew effect' casts an image of grumpy old men, dissatisfied with their lot. The elderly are always moaning, says the television, fed up with society and the modern world.

I have been privileged to inherit a family business which has older people at its core. I have worked closely with the elderly for much of my career; the reality of this typecasting could not be more different.

Which is what our recent research found. Two thirds of Britons aged over 65 told us that their happiest times have been from middle age onwards. Most of these 10 million people feel that they can make a valuable contribution to society, and only a fifth of them were happier as young adults. No Victor Meldrews there.

In my experience, Britain's older people are some of the brightest, most positive and satisfied you will be fortunate to encounter. Remembrance Day provides an opportunity to celebrate their immense contribution. But it's clearly not enough; two thirds of those we talked to also admitted that they feel less valued by society now than they did when they were younger.

That is a real indictment on a country that prides itself on diversity and inclusivity, and it's something we all have a responsibility to address.