I was delighted to attend and speak at the launch of the Leeds Age Proud Festival on Monday 12 September, which provided a very inspirational and energising start to my week. I attended with my Deputy, Cllr David Jenkins, who chairs the Age Friendly Board, and Leeds Ted, who is the mascot of Child Friendly Leeds. Ted in in my possession having been on holiday with me and is attending all my current events. I brought him to the launch as a symbol that we want Leeds to be the best city for everyone: we are passionate about it being the best city to grow up in and the best city to grow old in.
The Age Proud Festival was a wonderful opportunity to showcase the fantastic work happening across Leeds to support older people and enable them to connect with each other and be active, engaged citizens. We have so many dedicated organisations supporting and championing older people, from Leeds Older People’s Forum to our Neighbourhood Networks, which support older people in every ward of the city. They have truly shown their worth over the past year, supporting older people with shopping, collecting prescriptions and befriending; but also supporting older people to be volunteers and paid workers themselves, as part of the team of Leeds residents who have come together to support our city in a global crisis.
The Age Proud Festival, and all our campaigning work with older people across the city, aims to support the voices of older people and ensure that everything our city has to offer is accessible in every sense of the word. The festival was also a celebration of older people – their diversity, creativity and the huge contribution they make to Leeds.
We are currently undertaking our Joint Needs Assessment of the city, which will inform the next iteration of the Leeds Plan (currently called the Best Council Plan). There is a demographic change in how many older people are working and going forward we will see more older people remaining in the workforce.
A festival launch highlight for me was the LS26 Over 50s Dance Group who performed to some banging tracks straight after I spoke. With an age range of 50 to 90, the group have created an inclusive and fun activity for people of differing mobility levels and I was particularly excited to realise that in a few months I will be eligible to join! Cllr Jenkins was keen to encourage them to develop a men’s dance group too! The picture at the top of this blog is of me and Leeds Ted with the fantastic women who performed. The group is a great example of the ways that, as a city, we can tackle both ageism and perceptions of older people and, also, combat loneliness and isolation.
Thank you to Leeds Older People’s Forum, Time to Shine Programme Manager Linda Glew, who coordinated the Age Proud Festival, and to everyone who made it such a success.
Cllr Fiona Venner
Leeds City Council Executive Board Member for Children’s and Adult Social Care, Early Years and Health Partnerships.