Robin Lloyd-Jones turns 85 this year, a milestone he’s recognising with the release of a new book. The New Frontier: Making a Difference in Later Life is a collection of in-depth interviews with people in their 70s, 80s and 90s, with all his earnings from sales of the book going to Age UK. We spoke to the author, from his home in Scotland, to find out more.
A writer’s life
After graduating from Cambridge in 1960 with an MA in Social Anthropology, having spent some of his childhood in India, he was first a teacher and later the director of Scotland’s first curriculum development centre, before taking early retirement in 1989 to focus on his writing. It was a decision that proved highly successful, with Robin becoming a part-time tutor in Creative Writing at Glasgow University and president of The Scottish Association of Writers from 1993-96, and that’s to say nothing of his own literary creations.
The New Frontier
The New Frontier, which will be released in April, is certainly an ambitious undertaking, so the obvious question to ask is: how did Robin decided on the 19 people he interviewed for the book? “I was wondering how I’d determine the list, but then became aware of the Times-Sternberg Award,” he explains. “The award was established in 2008 to recognise the achievements of individuals over the age of 70. That helped to give me a shortlist of inspiring people.” These include a lady who survived Auschwitz and Belsen who takes tours for students to teach them about the Holocaust, despite being 92; and a retired surgeon who volunteers his services in places devastated by war and natural disasters.
Is there an ethos for later life?
The natural question when you read the interviews in The New Frontier is to wonder what, if anything, these inspiring but disparate people have in common, aside from continuing to flourish in their advancing years? Is there a secret to their sustained passion and productivity? Robin thinks there is. “They weren’t thinking about themselves,” he explains. “They were far more concerned about those less fortunate than themselves and involved with issues far greater than themselves. They had been taken out of themselves, and I don’t think it ever occurred to them to think, ‘Oh my god, I’m getting old’, because their focus was elsewhere.”
And what about Robin?
Given that Robin is the interviewer rather than the interviewee for The New Frontier, it would be remiss of us not to ask him what he puts his own prolific work ethic down to. “I suppose I don’t really regard it as work,” he says with a chuckle. “It’s a joy to do. I think there’s nothing like being creative, it’s a way to happiness. To wake up every morning thinking you’ve got something worthwhile to do, something that’s possibly going to make a difference to society, is a huge privilege.”
Robin’s next frontier
So what’s next for the author, who’d earlier told us that he always has “projects stacking up” and waiting for his attention? “I’m in the process of applying for funding to develop and expand my Autumn Voices blog,” he explains. “It covers the same themes as the Autumn Voices book and The New Frontier, but it’s in blog form. All of the guest bloggers have to be over 60, and it will have a showcase for artists of any kind over 60, and there will be a book award and various competitions for writing. It will all depend on how much funding I get!”
The New Frontier will be published on 10 April through ThunderPoint Publishing. The Kindle version is available online now. All Robin's earnings from sales of the book will go to Age UK.