The Times today launches its third Active Life Award to celebrate the achievements of older people.

Sponsored jointly by Sir Sigmund Sternberg, the 89-year-old philanthropist and founder of the Three Faith Forum, the prize aims to recognise outstanding contributions to society and good causes by the over-70s.

The prizes total £10,000: £5,000 for the winner and £1,000 each for five runners up.

Older people who work beyond the age of 70 or volunteer their skills and services to charitable causes after retirement are eligible. Last year Phoebe Caldwell, 76, won the award for her continuing work with schools, psychologists and families to help those who suffer from severe autism.

Helen Bamber, the psychotherapist who treated former prisoners from Bergen-Belsen and set up the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, was the 2008 winner. She set up the Helen Bamber foundation in 2005 at the age of 80.

Nominations are invited from anyone over the age of 18 who knows someone aged 70 or over whose life and work is an inspiration to others.

Proposers cannot nominate themselves and must check with the nominee that they are happy for their name to go forward. Nominations close at 5pm on Friday, October 15. This year the judges include Steve Webb, the Pensions Minister, Baroness Neuberger, the rabbi and social reformer, Katy Bravery, the editor of Saga Magazine, the businessman Sir Tom Farmer, Cristiana, Lady Sorrell and Sir John Ritblat. The winner will be announced on December 31.

The Times/Sternberg award comes at a time when more people are living well into their eighties.

Official forecasts predict that, in 20 years, a quarter of Britain’s population will be over 65 and the number of people over 85 will have doubled.

Already in 2007 pensioners outnumbered children for the first time. One in four children born today can expect to live to be 100 and there are 10,000 people aged 100 or over. By 2050 it is estimated that there will be 250,000 centenarians.

To help to tackle the economic problems this could result in, and in a move against age discrimination, the Government is to scrap the law that required everyone to retire at the age of 65. That means that from October 2011 companies will have to negotiate with their older staff about when they would like to leave.

Today a person can expect, on average, to live for 24 years after retirement age. That has led many to get involved in volunteering, caring for relatives or providing care for their grandchildren.

It is estimated that the over-60s contribute about 18 million hours a week of unpaid work. That is worth at least £4.3 billion to the economy each year. Last year’s runners up included John Lynam, 79, for revitalising Flintshire Community Transport Services and his voluntary work in hospitals with the Community Service Volunteers, and Maud Reilly, 94, for her voluntary work at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability in the past 23 years.

Also runners up were Professor Ray Powles, who shared the award with his twin brother Professor Trevor Powles, 71, for their work in oncology, Sybil Phoenix, 82, who founded the Marsha Phoenix Memorial Trust in 1979 and the first black youth club in Deptford, London, and the late Brice Somers, for inventing prefilled safety syringes.

Article from The Times (online edition)