Roger – Age 67
“My fear about growing old was that I would end up watching a lot of daytime TV, and I am determined not to do that. I would simply say, go out and put that first foot through the door. It can be hard but it is an incredibly rewarding experience.”
I help at the food bank in Whitehawk. I’m semi-retired – I’m a maths lecturer at Sussex University. I’m down to working about one day a week, but I do a lot of other stuff with U3A, with teaching and organising and helping down at the church with projects.
U3A is for people who are sort of retired. It can just have a social aspect – we have lunch clubs and outings. But also, we have a number of interest groups. For example, I run a couple of maths groups for people who are interested and we look at all sorts of different aspects of maths. I run a science and religion discussion group as part of U3A. We had a group on CS Lewis. People do art and opera discussions. All sorts of things, more or less academic. I really enjoy it – meeting people and sharing my knowledge and learning from them as well.
There’s about 350 people in Preston Park and there are about five different U3As in Brighton alone. U3A stands for University for Third Age. So when you finish your working age, you move into your third age. For many people, work provides community, a purpose and a meaning. I’ve been involved in U3A for about four years now and I’ve got lots of new friends. I’ve got something to look forward to on a Tuesday afternoon when I do my maths groups, so it very much does that, yes. Especially for men, because they can tend to drop out more than women. Although we would like even more men to be in U3A.
I think Brighton is an age-friendly city. I’ve got my bus pass, so it’s easier for me to get into Brighton than for my wife, who’s younger than me. I don’t have any problems. The Jubilee Library is excellent, I often get books that I request. It answers my needs. I have an electric bike – the city is quite good for bike users in general, so I’m pleased with that. I’m happy enough with what Brighton has to offer. I go to St Peter’s Church on a Sunday and a group of us, after the morning service, we go over to Moksha cafe – we go there a lot. My favourite pub is the Park View, up near Preston Park because, apart from anything else, we have a pub quiz there, a U3A pub quiz there once a month. My favourite restaurant is also the Park View – we eat there quite a lot.
I’m currently reading a book called Homo Deus, which is a follow up to a book called Sapiens. That was a history of mankind up to the present, by an Israeli thinker whose name I can’t remember. It was quite a well-known book, two or three years ago. Homo Deus is his follow-up about the future of humanity.
We go to the cinema a lot. We saw Lion and we saw Hidden Figures. I go to the Silver Screen at Duke of York’s cinema because it’s cheap. That’s another thing which is great for older people. I’m not on any major internet groups, but I could imagine that could help people in rural communities to communicate with people over the world. So that might help in that respect.
If I could give some words of wisdom to the younger generation: my fear of growing old was that I’d end up watching a lot of daytime TV, and I’m determined not to do that. So I would simply say – go out to things. Don’t just sit at home – go out. There are lots of things around. Make the most of them. Sometimes it’s a bit hard, putting that first step through the door. But once you do I’m sure you’ll find lots of friends and lots of things to do.
With the food bank, I’m on the fairly impersonal side. I collect the food and put it in the storeroom, but on a Wednesday afternoon I help out St Peter’s Church, where we have a drop-in for homeless men. I just sit and chat to them and I really enjoy that. It’s as much for me as it is for them. Just to be able to share their life stories, some of the problems they have. I’ve made some friends there from the people who drop in. I really enjoy doing that as well. Brighton has become somewhat of a Mecca for homeless people. For example, some of the homeless people from up north think that the streets of Brighton are paved with gold. Sadly, the streets aren’t paved with gold, so it’s a problem and they struggle here, as much as they would elsewhere.
I grew up in Brighton then we moved away, then we came back 15 years ago. The things I love most about Brighton are the sea and the Downs, either side of Brighton.
The best piece of advice, I received when I was 18 at my last year of school. A friend invited me to a local youth service at a church. I had no involvement with church, I was quite anti-God but he invited me along and within a few moths I’d become a Christian. I was really pleased I took the invitation and went to church. The church is still massively relevant in Brighton today; we do the social projects, the food bank, the safe haven for the homeless, but then we’re also running these Alpha courses for people who want to learn what being a Christian really means. We’ve got more than 1,000 people coming to St Peter’s on a Sunday at the three services and it’s having a major impact.