By Lesley Morrison

WHEN the Queen died, many of us felt grief, not just for her, but for the loss of family members and for a generation from whom we have so much to learn, about duty, service and listening. Rather than talking, really listening. In the moving film clip of the Queen on her last official engagement visiting a new hospital, she was clearly frail but she was still focused on the person she was introduced to, looked directly into their eyes and was really listening.

Many older people, very concerned about what the future holds for their children and grandchildren, are struggling to know what they can do to make a difference. They – we – can easily feel disconnected and lacking in a sense of purpose. We may belong to families and community organisations but be unclear what our useful role in them is.

But "elderhood" brings experience, time and hopefully some wisdom and listening skills. In my working life as a GP, I was very aware of the importance and power of listening. Dr David Haslam, previously head of the BMA, condensed the skills of being a doctor into "Shut up, listen, know stuff, care". Good listening takes time and energy and it is fundamental to working effectively with others and creating change.

Christiana Figueres, who, as head of the UN Committee on Climate Change, stewarded the Paris Agreement into being, attributes the progress made to what she learned from the Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hahn, about "deep listening" and respecting difference and others' positions. As Ms Figueres says, this is a crucial time for the future of our planet and, rather than be paralysed by the threats, we should recognise that it is a privilege to be here now, with the opportunity to make a difference.

This applies to all of us, old and young. Climate change, pandemics and conflict are very real threats for everyone but it's important to transform that fear and anxiety into positive, age-appropriate engagement, and nourishing what the eco-psychotherapist Joanna Macy calls "active hope". Our generation has "borrowed from the future" in terms of use of resources and establishing debt. We need to acknowledge that and find positive ways to move forward.

They may well be different from how we previously engaged, they may occur at a slower, more thoughtful tempo, but they’re needed. The challenge is for us to find ways of handing over the baton, remaining involved in an age-appropriate way while supporting younger people to take things forward. Bill McKibben, the American author and environmentalist behind, the global grassroots movement for climate and social justice, has now founded Third Act, an organisation for older people in America who "want to work for a fairer, more sustainable society and planet". They "back up the work of younger people" and “make good trouble of our own”.

Is there an equivalent movement here? If not, shall we create one?

Lesley Morrison is a retired GP