Editorial: Every Individual Matters

The wisdom of Dr Jane Goodall

[Image: Dr Jane Goodall]

Last week I watched the movie Guardians of the Galaxy – Volume 2 with my young kids. There was a scene where the main ‘Earth-man’ character was berating a powerful brawny male alien saying “You sound like an old woman!” to which the interstellar muscular alien returned a perplexed look and asked “Because I’m wise?” My husband and I were delighted by this Hollywood exchange and made a point of bringing it to our kids’ attention of an example of older people being respected. On another day, walking into a local trendy cafĂ© in my home town, I read a sign on a huge blackboard that stated “Age is not important, unless you’re a cheese”. You may think this a little, um, cheesy, but I was so chuffed I took a photo of it!

The reason I’m so excited by these seemingly random and inconsequential scenarios, is that as a researcher who has spent years exploring and calling out instances of age discrimination, I believe it is also incredibly important to acknowledge and celebrate moments that praise and value getting older.

As we are nearing the United Nation’s International Day of Older Persons on Sunday 1st October, with this year’s theme being ‘Stepping into the future: tapping the talents, contributions and participation of older persons in society’, I thought we could forge ahead with positivity and recognition of the value of growing older and of older people.

Someone who I admire greatly as ‘a wise old woman’ at the age of 83 years, and who I had the pleasure of going to see when she came to Australia in June, Dr Jane Goodall embodies the theme of this year’s International Day of the Older Persons as contributing and participating in society to the fullest. In addition to being a primatologist, ethologist, and anthropologist, she is also a UN Messenger of Peace. As the founder of the two conservation organisations, the Jane Goodall Institute and Roots and Shoots, she is pragmatic about how much time she may or may not have left on this Earth, but still believes there is so much more work to be done and many more hearts to touch.

“Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.” - Jane Goodall

Many thanks to all of our contributors to this issue. We hope all our readers enjoy the start of Spring. Happy reading!

[Source: Dr Ruth Williams is the Academic Convenor of the Hallmark Ageing Research Initiative at the University of Melbourne]