The Ageing Better Annual Conference 2018 was held this year in Margate, where we were warmly greeted by the staff of Ageless Thanet.
The Ageless Thanet programme has some very different elements to those in Leeds; as part of a social enterprise in a very deprived area, they have a great focus on regeneration. They run all sorts of activities, including Life Planners (who help people with all sorts of issues), Wellbeing Courses and training for older social entrepreneurs. They even have an Age Friendly Business scheme which offers rewards and incentives to local people over 50. Lots of local shops are members, as is one of the local taxi companies. Interestingly, although they offer initial Wellbeing courses one of their strategies towards Legacy is to ensure everyone pays something for ongoing activities and a number of the Wellbeing activities (art classes, fitness) are self-sustaining already.
As a new member of the Time to Shine team I had a great opportunity to meet members of some of the other Ageing Better teams and find out how other Programmes are approaching the issues of social isolation and loneliness in their areas.
In addition to the contributions from external speakers I was able to attend two interesting parallel sessions – one with the Programme Managers from Middlesbrough and Manchester – looking at the complex issues surrounding older age and poverty.
The Middlesbrough project had identified, in a way similar to many of the projects in Leeds that although taking a straightforward ABCD approach had seemed like a positive plan, it struggled until they were able to implement the resource needed to support very targeted work, and it was clear that people needed receive a great deal of practical help before they could address other issues. Part of the Middlesbrough project focussed on refugees and asylum seekers and it was clear that in these communities the issues are even greater. You can see their report here:
The second session I attended looked at the role of the Arts in improving physical and mental wellbeing, and giving people a fulfilling activity which re-engaged them with society. We looked at examples of singing, dancing and the visual arts; at projects where older people took part and others where they took over. Elaine Unegbu told us about Age Friendly Manchester’s Culture Champions.
Oh,and we got to see the art at the Turner Contemporary where the conference was held, too.