Making progress

By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead

LIKE so many people working at the sharp end, our teams sometimes forget or underestimate just how much impact they have on other people’s day to day lives.

Not that they would seek recognition for it, but what brings home to me how much they achieve is when I am asked the inevitable question when being introduced to someone for the first time.

“And what do you do?” is generally the opener and depending on how genuine and sincere the question I find myself giving the briefest of outlines of our work here at the Torbay Community Development Trust and Ageing Well Torbay.

Sometimes the answer is perfunctory – I do marketing and communications for the two organisation in Torbay, but at other times, depending on my audience, I find myself becoming ever more expansive as I recognise reflected in the questioner’s eyes, a look of amazement.

And there’s the nub some people have never stopped to think about the type of work we are involved in because they have never had a need to. No judgement. I hadn’t until I crossed the rubicon from the private to the charity sector just 12 months ago.

But mention Ageing Well Torbay and the work of the Ageing Better programme to a person of a certain age, and then you have their attention instantly.

Most are surprised that so much work is going on with the over 50’s, not just here in the Bay but in projects across the country and how much impact it is having on people and services alike.

They get the need to combat isolation and loneliness and sympathise with anyone who finds themselves in that position, but few have them have ever stopped to think that it may happen to them.

Depending on what they have done for a living they are vaguely aware of the ageing population – after all most of my social circle are now part of it – and yet they are not aware that things need to change to accommodate it.

But as soon as the subject is broached then they get it, and as the conversation unfolds so does the level of concern, and the questions start to come thick and fast – what is Ageing Well? What is Ageing Better? Why is the Community Lottery Fund spending so much money on it?

Is it working?

The statistics speak for themselves and I generally dig deep and remember the headlines ones like the numbers of people whose visits to their doctors have fallen around 40% and whilst they are reeling from that one I hit them with the even higher figure of reduced hospital visits.

Money saved is always a popular subject, particularly when they recognise the immense benefit that money saving is to the budget stretched NHS.

Inevitably there follows a brief explanation of how we deliver our work: what a community builder does, what a wellbeing coordinators is and a brief resume of the work of our delivery teams all of whom can have significant and far-reaching effects on people’s lives.

And it is not just Ageing Well; there is also the work being delivered to a broader age group via TCDT, looking after youngsters and adults like across a broad spectrum of disciplines – advice, advocacy and support.

It is gratifying to think that we are not just working from opposite ends of the spectrum to create a Torbay where young people are happy to grow up and where older people are happy to grow old.

Then there are the people that you meet along the way – those that are delivering the services on a professional as well as a voluntary basis along with the people that are receiving them.

And before I know it, the evening has passed, and I find myself apologising for taking up so much of their time, Thankfully the vast majority of my ear-bent victims assure me that no apology is necessary.

And the final question? Will it be coming to where I live? Alas, a question I cannot answer, but if we have learned anything in the last few years, we know that the answer is that it must, and it will continue to fall to the charity and voluntary sector to deliver it.

In a society that has seen decades of cuts to services to those in need, I am proud to be part of a group of people that are picking up the responsibility for those that can’t always do it for themselves and helping to make Torbay a better place to live for everyone.

That is why you should avoid me at parties.