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16 October 2014
BBC NI - Eyewitness

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June Mallon, 68, is a retired activity therapist Image of June Mallon

Prime Minister Tony Blair declared 'Education, education, education' - but what happened to lifelong learning, Mr Blair? Did you know that there is a cut-off point for further education loans, and older people have to find money elsewhere if they wish to continue with their courses? Learndirect withdrew, for example, their concessionary rates for people over 55. Now this causes hardship and it discriminates against older people.

I applied for and was awarded a Millennium Fund grant from the Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust. Now, this enabled me to attend a Second World Conference on Ageing, and that was held in Madrid, early April 2002. Now at this conference, Kofi Annan stated that the older generation should be seen as an asset and a resource, and he thought we were both economically and socially valuable for the community.

If older people were to step back from their caring roles, say, and their volunteering activities, I think the country would just come to a standstill - because we're a vibrant, active section of the community.

I think it would be a good idea too if, say, the government were to take a more inter-generational approach to the, say like, the school curriculum; and maybe introduce courses to bridge the generation gap; and maybe let younger people know we're not there, we are there maybe to guide and support, we're not there to criticise or condemn. If this happened, say, maybe there would be more respect and equality for maybe all sections of the community.

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