I’ve lots of plans, with things to do and organisations to join, said a friend as he neared retirement.It was to be a great new experience and one he was keenly anticipating. We have a neighbour in the same position and he too, a very practical man, has lots of ideas of rooms he is going to decorate and the work he is going to do in the garden. A natural activist, it will be hard for him to do nothing, although doing nothing could be the new skill of the retired! People who haven’t seen me for a while ask the inevitable question, what are you doing now you are retired? I fumble for a convincing answer, itemising my few commitments as though they were embarrassingly meagre. It’s as if I feel I have to justify not being at work anymore, which is crazy. Retirement is the gift of a new life. You are the same person but you now live in a different space.

I am a member of a small seminar group connected to the University of the Third Age, and Europe is our subject. There are never more than a dozen of us, and we contribute papers on a variety of subjects.

Meeting for just an hour and a half, there is always time for discussion which sometimes can get quite heated. Like most older people we maintain the conventions of politeness, but sometimes tempers can flare and the mildest of us can take umbrage at an opinion we strongly disagree with. But we don’t part with ill feelings towards each other. When the subject lacks dynamism, heads have been known to nod. With ages ranging from upper seventies to mid eighties, that should surprise no one.

We cover most political opinions, read different news papers, but come not only with up to date knowledge of contemporary news but with a great deal of valuable experience. At one time and in a different culture, a long and eventful life would have had close attention and respect from younger people.

This was how the mysteries of life were handed down to the next generation.

Today it’s not like that at all. Young people often manage amazingly well on their own, and their world is very different from the one that formed us. But the young and the old have something to share and something to gain. It’s good to do some thinking with a group of people of your own generation, but being caught in an ageist intellectual trap could be dangerously near to talking to yourself.