YESTERDAY, rushed out of my mind as usual and in between two school runs, already late for work, I passed an elderly gentleman who often takes a morning walk down my street.

He was leaning against a lamp post doing some gentle leg stretching exercises and tried to stop me for a chat.

He’s clearly a little lonely, uses his walks as a bit of exercise and a chance to chat to people, and I had some polite (but slightly urgent) small talk with him before going inside to round up the eldest for school.

While I felt sorry for him amid a pinprick of guilt for dashing inside, I also felt some envy. It must be a lonely existence, I thought, but how precious to have that time to walk, to turn his face to the sunshine of a weekday spring morning, to listen to the birds and watch the bustle of life.

For the lonely elderly, the days must stretch ahead like endless voids, the time begging to be filled.

For the more industrious and fit I am sure there is much to brighten the days, but for those less confident, rudderless perhaps because of widowhood or ill health, I thought, it must be difficult.

The baby boomer generation had the great luxury – and I am talking in very broad terms – of relatively stable jobs, lower house prices so perhaps only one parent needed to work, and many with pension packages that would make today’s shareholders’ eyes water.

For the following generations – I believe we are known as Generation X, followed by the much-maligned Millennials – life has taken on a whole new urgency.

House prices have soared, job security and longevity is moth-wing fragile, we are permanently connected to work and the social media landscape, and in many families, both parents are working.

Society hasn’t quite caught up with this and often private sector employers (not mine, I’m happy to say), are rigid and inflexible and wraparound childcare for those who work odd hours is impossible to find.

I have seen the look of panic on working parents’ faces as traffic or some unforeseen child-related incident threatens to make them late for work with an unsympathetic employer.

I have stood in the kitchen with the laptop, trying to finish a story for deadline, typing with one hand while my other hand stirs whatever uninteresting dish I’ve thrown together quickly for the kids for dinner.

I have most likely picked up the ingredients in a mad dash into the supermarket on the way home from work before pick-up time, where my envy of the retired turns into irrational irritation as they dawdle around the aisles, chatting and browsing slowly while I throw anything I can find into the trolley and make a run for the tills.

While our society is still unequal in terms of rich and poor, there are also those who are rich and poor in time.

For the working population, time has become a commodity. There are no longer as many practical jobs which are finished, and you go home. In a knowledge-based economy, which ours has become, there are always more emails, always more work to be done.

Parenthood in these fast-paced times is even more challenging. Schools are under pressure for good results so the homework comes home even at the age of six, the parent has to cajole (and usually nag) the children to complete it and the joy of learning slowly starts to die.

No wonder as a nation our mental health is suffering. It’s difficult to enjoy our lives when we’re always panicking about where we have to be and what we’ve got to do.

At some point, the bubble will burst. We can’t go on in this manner. There is only a finite amount that one person can do. My generation is sandwiched between young children and elderly parents to care for, and a whacking great mortgage to pay.

I wonder if at some point there will be a revolution of slow, where we collectively decide to take things at a more reasonable pace.

Until then, I’ll make the most of the rare and precious moments of calm and take a leaf out of that elderly gentleman’s book by walking down the street, slowly, with the spring sun on my face.