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The way we theorise ageing provides a 'cultural template' which effects both policy and practice and which has consequences for the way people make a social contribution. This paper illustrates the implications of this cultural template by reference to an ongoing empirical study of Grey Nomads and the voluntary contribution they make to isolated rural towns across Australia. The way we theorise ageing provides a ‘cultural template’ which effects both policy and practice and which has consequences for the way people make a social contribution. At present, the ‘Rise and Fall’ model of the life span remains the dominant template in public and professional thinking, and underlies much medical and social security planning. We propose a typology with alternatives to the decline model of ageing for the young-old age period including, among others the concept of Ulyssean Ageing. The paper illustrates the implications of this cultural template, by reference to an ongoing empirical study of Grey Nomads and the voluntary contribution they make to isolated rural towns across Australia. The study builds on an ethnographic study of grey nomads, a questionnaire survey identifying their interests and willingness to contribute in a voluntary capacity to rural community development projects, and six case studies of isolated rural towns who are developing community projects that will both benefit the towns in material social and economic ways, and that will support the Grey Nomads search for new knowledge and adventure. It is argued that the Grey nomad project both explicates the nature of Ulyssean Ageing, and demonstrates ways in which Grey Nomads may materially benefit both rural community capacity, and a more enlightened national ageing policy

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