This blog was contributed by Emily Georghiou, local influencing adviser, at Age UK.
On 1 September, the Age UK network came back from the summer break with a bang. A packed room – of local Age UK partners, Age UK staff, Lord Filkin (Chair of the Centre for Ageing Better) and experts from local government – gathered together at our 2016 Influencing Conference.
Our theme was ‘How to win friends and influence people’ – particularly those people with the power to help us deliver a better future for our ageing society.
In an increasingly devolved and localised context, it is crucial for our network of variously sized local Age UKs (160+ of them) and partners in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to have a shared understanding of our operating context. Our annual get together is an important opportunity for the network to realise its unique strength – its national oversight and local presence – and the partnership’s potential to support the UK to be a great place to grow older.
In the context of increasing pressure on resources and threats to local services, ‘influencing’ can feel like a nicetohave. Yet it is crucial that we’re able to speak truth to power about the reality and challenges of later life in the UK from our unique position of expertise and understanding.
As well as relationships and connectivity being key to ageing well, one theme which ran through the day was the fundamental importance of place. It is important that wherever we live and whatever our age, we can access the essentials of a good life. As the conference explored, there is a real need to connect, communicate and collaborate to remove the barriers which older people face to living well and contributing to community resilience.
Our Age Friendly Places guide has been developed as a tool for dialogue and leadership in local communities – recognising the need for a place based approach, joined up solutions and the role that the voluntary sector and older people themselves can play, if enabled. With an increasingly diverse and ageing population, it is more important than ever that we maintain health, wellbeing and independence into later life (today or tomorrow) and live in places which support all of us to:
- have opportunities to enjoy life and feel well
- participate in society and feel valued for our contribution;
- have enough money to live well
- feel safe, comfortable and secure at home, connected to our communities
- able to live an active lifestyle and access quality health and care
Some of the solutions to more effective partnerships with people and places may lie in technological solutions – helping us connect, collaborate and communicate more effectively. It was perhaps then a fitting end to the day that our final speaker was from Change.org the digital campaigners “world platform for change”. Her top tips for campaigning success were to always:
1) Make it personal
2) Build a community
3) Think small to build a big movement.
Wise words for any successful influencing initiative.
As we heard from our speakers- with ongoing austerity, Brexit Britain in the balance and a UK still not ready for ageing – the challenges are many and the jeopardy far too great for those who won’t win the ageing-well lottery. That is why we must all play our part in influencing people, power and places to shape the future we all want – wherever we live and whoever we are – a great place to grow older.