The Serbia I want
In my work coordinating the Red Cross of Serbia's activities for older people, I meet many older men and women who boldly state their views on how their lives can be improved through communal action.
17.4% of the Serbian population is over the age of 65, which makes us one of the oldest nations in the world, demographically speaking. Serbia is also one of the 56 countries across the world chosen to take part in national debates on the development priorities that will follow on from the Millennium Development Goals when they expire in 2015.
Ensuring older Serbians are heard
This debate needs to include as many Serbians as possible, especially those living on the margins of the society, whose voices are rarely heard. There are many channels through which people can express their opinions, including public debates and social networks. However, to ensure people are truly heard, you have to reach out to them.
More than 620 people above the age of 65 from across the country have taken part so far by answering a survey called "the Serbia I want". This is part of a bigger initiative to tell the United Nations about the world that you want, called MY World.
Some of them were eager to be heard, like a group of older people living in Belgrade, with a Facebook page dedicated to their city and why they love it. These people needed little encouragement in stating their views when told it was their chance to influence UN policies.
But on the other hand, there are also people living in remote villages, where many have left to find work in the big cities. Do not assume, however, that these people have no opinion or confuse their isolation for apathy. They still have their voice and they still want to be heard.
Global voice of older people
We have heard from people from many walks of life, from well-off pensioners to older people living on no income, as well as Red Cross beneficiaries and volunteers, all in their sixties, seventies or beyond. They have one thing in common, though, beyond their age and experience: They want to be listened to. They want to be part of the global voice of older people and to help other older people.
The change they are so eager to bring about might not ultimately change their lives, but it will dramatically alter the futures of those who are young today when they grow older.
We have witnessed this enthusiasm again and again, with people knocking at our door saying they have heard from their friends and neighbours about this important survey and that they want to contribute to it. They see it as their chance to talk about things that really matter, to be part of their country's future and to help create better lives for all its people.
We have left older people behind for too long. Given attention and trust, they will repay us in ideas, enthusiasm, experience and wisdom. We must never again ignore their capacity and energy.
Find out more about how HelpAge is involved in the post-2015 and MY World process.
Tell the United Nations about the world that YOU want. Fill in the MY World survey.