By David Gledhill, Marketing and Communications Officer

Thankfully there are few isms left in life – we are tackling sexism, we are tackling racism, but one very big one is still out there waiting to be tackled – Ageism.

In Torbay we are lucky to have Ageing Well which is seeking to change attitudes as well as tackling the debilitating effects of isolation and loneliness in over 50-year-olds.

Not having company is one thing, but being viewed in a negative light is another and some people feel that they are no longer valued in a society that could really benefit from their wealth of experience and knowledge, if only society could work out a way of harnessing it.

We have come a long way down that route here in Torbay and along with 13 other schemes around the country all funded by the Big Lottery we have learned a lot about how our society views older people.

Some of it is positive, but a lot of it is negative – and needs to change for the good of society as a whole, which has lots of problems to tackle without throwing unnecessary and damaging ageism in to the mix.

We ought to be able to celebrate ageing and take full advantage of the skills, experience and wisdom that often comes with it. We need to change those attitudes and we are doing. Step by step, one argument at a time.

And things are beginning to speed up. Having harnessed the power of (older) people we are now moving forward to ensure they are taken into account at every level of decision making – from the very bottom to the very top.

Over the next few months, a group of motivated older people who have been working behind the scenes for many months, will launch a series of roadshows, talks and information campaigns with the intention of forming a Torbay Over 50’s Assembly.

The idea is to harness all that power invested in older people and let them have their say on all the things that concern them. But it is not a talking shop, nor is it a complaints forum – it is a way of ensuring the ever growing older person population has it say

Or put another way, the Over 50’s have recognised in themselves, an overwhelming urge to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.

As it rolls out the Assembly representatives will be talking to their peers in all three towns in the Bay – Torquay, Brixham and Paignton – to give older people from across the area the chance to get involved.

They will be looking for people who are not just passionate about their communities but also have an interest in making sure older people are represented in things that affect them

The World Health Organisation in their guide to Ageing Better have identified eight areas for the over 50’s to be consulted on and they were reflected here in Torbay last year when we asked for older people’s views via our Food for Thought Sessions which involved around 400 people.

Back then you told us that housing was a key issue – particularly the desire to be able to stay at home instead of moving into residential care. You also told us that transport was a very important subject for people to be able to stay independent and socially active.

Other things at the forefront of older people’s minds was accessible advice and information, social activities, support services and the environment all of which closely align with the World Health Organisation’s priorities.

The experts are of course older people themselves and that is why here at Ageing Well Torbay we are looking to help launch the Torbay Over 50’s Assembly which will give a voice to all these concerns at the highest levels.

We are not seeking to reinvent the wheel – there are enough talking shops out there already, but no matter how passionate our representatives, they do not always understand the older person’s perspective.

That is where the assembly comes in. Taking concerns from groups meeting in Brixham, Torquay and Paignton it will aims to ensure that the needs of our ever growing older population remain at the top of the agenda – be that in the council chamber, the health authority or in the various statutory bodies.

Ultimately the aim is for Torbay to achieve ‘Age Friendly’ status which means exactly as the words suggest – a place where growing old is made easier by everyone for everyone – whether it is respect at street level or services being designed that are fit for purpose.

Work on Age Friendly status will start early in the New Year. So watch this space. Exciting times

Power to the (older) people.

If you want more information on any of the above then contact me in the first place either by email; By phone on 01803 212638 or drop into our offices at the Torbay Community Development Trust in Temperance Street, Torquay.