Local Community News


The saying that ‘Life begins at 50’ is a key message at events which are bringing Islanders together to celebrate getting older this week.

Councillor Michael Lilley is just 1 person who is showing that age is no barrier as he continues his celebratory 60th year with the start of many new ventures.

On Wednesday (4th October), Michael is at the Riverside Centre in Newport talking about becoming a Councillor and on 13th October he will be presenting his latest children’s story at the Isle of Wight Literary Festival.

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12 months ago, Michael teamed up with local artist Helen Stiles and the Age UK Isle of Wight Age Friendly team to launch an intergenerational story for children. As a result, Papa Owl was born. The first book ‘Papa Owl and Rocket the Dog’s Big Flying Adventure’ was launched at the Isle of Wight Literary Festival in 2016. Michael’s life has radically changed in the last 2 years and particularly the last 12 months; he has started to write children’s books, work on a film script, writing a book about his life-long approach to mental health – ‘My Time’ – and was elected the Isle of Wight Council’s first Green Councillor.

Michael is an Age Friendly Champion and is keen to focus on how the increasing number of older adults on the Island need to work with the future generations to make the Isle of Wight a place to live for all ages. He has just been accepted on a Local Government’s Next Generation of Local Politicians course which starts in October, has become an Isle of Wight Youth Trust trustee and also the Vice-Chair of Ryde Network (Ryde Town Council’s Youth Services).

Michael has said:

“There is a great life post 60. I see life as a journey of endings and beginnings and over the last 30 years of being a mental health professional and councillor spending time with children, teenagers, older adults and families that often experiencing tragic events, I saw how modern society was creating a division between generations and wanted to show that although we can be afraid of the future and hide, we can also embrace it with hope whether aged 5 going to school for first time or being made redundant at age 60.

“I as a granddad can start again along with my granddaughters starting a new school. In the last 2 years, my dad died, and I was made redundant, but also I have been elected as a councillor, become an age friendly champion, written a children’s book, designed with my wife a new home for our future old age, and much more.”

Michael and Helen are currently writing their next Papa Owl Book, ‘Papa Owl and Muddie the Dog’s Great Flying Kite Adventure’. Papa Owl lives on Sandy Island and Michael and Helen get much of their inspiration for this fictional island from Appley Beach. Each book has a combination of themes that show humans of different ages (granddad and his 2 granddaughters) and animal characters (dogs, owls and other wild animals) exploring problems in life together through invention, problem-solving, making things, experimentation, self-discovery, taking action and simply enjoying nature and beautiful things in life.

Talking about ‘still flying a kite at 60’, Michael has said:

“I was often told as a child to go fly a kite which is often said when you are seen as a nuisance. Older adults, children and teenagers are often seen as a nuisance, we have that in common.  However, flying kites is a symbolism of thinking about new ideas at important stages of life.

“I wanted to show the connection between the generations of those starting the road from 60 into old age and children coming into adolescence and teenagers coming into adulthood. The expression of flying a kite is about exploration, self-discovering and trying new things whether aged 5, 12, 18 or 60.

“In July I was made redundant from my job of 15 years but I also in May was also elected as a councillor. Life is about endings and new beginnings. Change is scary and at times depressing but if you embrace it new beginnings can bring new sunshine and hope into your life. So Go Fly a kite for your future as we all have one whatever our age as long as we believe it!.”

Cllr Lilley will be at the Community Eng-Agement Day on Wednesday 4th October at Riverside Centre between 11:00-14:00. He will be talking about becoming 60, coping with redundancy, creation of my alter-ego Papa Owl, being a granddad and why he stood as a local Councillor, won an election and how he is planning and celebrating getting older.

Then, Michael will be at Isle of Wight Literary Festival on Saturday 13th October (12:00-12:45) in the Youth Zone at Northwood House, Cowes. Helen, Michael and Muddie the Dog will be telling the story of Papa Owl and his flying kite adventures with Muddie. There will be opportunities to make kites.

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