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On 24 October 2011 the Older People’s Strategic Board hosted an event for people in the city with an interest in making Newcastle an age-friendly city. This event formed part of a programme of work leading up to a Policy Cabinet on ‘Promoting Active Ageing’ held on 2 November 2011.
Forty five people from different sectors and agencies in the city attended the event. This included older people from the Elders Council, who brought with them knowledge of the discussions with older people at an event held on 12th October 2011.
Colin Williams, Chair of the Older People’s Strategic Board and Mary Nicholls, Chair of the Elders Council opened the event. Colin highlighted the breadth of issues which need to be considered when thinking about an age-friendly city, whilst Mary urged people to remember that older people are an asset and that we should celebrate the fact that we are all living longer, healthier lives. They both acknowledged that inequalities in the city mean that not everyone enjoys a healthy, active old age and that we should work towards closing the gap in healthy life expectancy.
The event was designed to enable people to have conversations in small groups, sharing their knowledge and expertise both as individuals and from their roles within organisations in the city.
On arrival, participants were given a workbook, which gave details of the programme.
As an introduction, participants were asked to review six themes which cover the key areas of work we need to consider when developing an age-friendly city. They were asked to consider which of the themes were most important to them personally, and which they spent most of their working time on. The theme which emerged as being most important to participants was ‘Planning ahead and managing changes’, which is consistent with the priority given to this theme by older people.
Participants were then invited to browse data posters, which tell the story about the changing patterns in the population and the quality of life of older people in the city.
Some of the data which surprised people was the relatively high level of satisfaction amongst older people with their home and neighbourhood. Others were surprised by the levels of alcohol consumption amongst older people.
Older people are not a homogeneous group. To help us to ensure that we take account of the contributions and needs of older people, we found it helpful to think about the following stages.
These stages are not necessarily sequential or related to age:
• preparing for an active later life
• active later life
• vulnerable later life
• dependent later life
We also created characters which participants used in their discussions to ensure that we always take account of the diversity amongst older people.
Participants discussed what older people can do for themselves to enjoy a healthy later life and what support they need from others. Their discussions and suggestions are summarised here.
To conclude the workshop, we used the ‘Ten questions to ask if you are considering local preparation for the ageing society’ produced by Local Government Improvement and Development and the Centre for Public Scrutiny. The results of people’s reflections are shown on a composite radar diagram.
As they left, participants were asked to complete a postcard giving us their ideas about what would make an age-friendly city. Read their replies here.
Cllr Ann Schofield closed the event and gave her commitment to taking forward the work on making Newcastle an age-friendly city. She informed participants that the information gathered at the event would inform a Briefing Paper and discussions at a thinkabout – Policy Cabinet on ‘Promoting Active Ageing’ to be held on 9 November 2011. A copy of the paper and a report on the Policy Cabinet are available here.
On 2 November 2011, Cllr Schofield proposed a motion to Newcastle City Council to re-affirm the ambition to create an age-friendly city by agreeing to the Dublin Declaration of Age-friendly Cities and Communities and to nominate a lead member to oversee the plans and activities that ensure the Council values the contribution of older people in the City. The motion was passed with cross party support and has provided a platform for renewing the commitment of all partners to making Newcastle an age-friendly city.
Ageing is one of the key themes being considered by the Wellbeing and Health Scrutiny Committee.