By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead
Torbay has been accepted as part of the World Health Organisation’s Age-friendly network, which is no mean feat, representing not just a great deal of hard work already done but a lot more to come.
Ageing Well Torbay has been working towards joining the network since it was launched six years ago, helping the over 50’s avoid loneliness and isolation through community development facilitated by Community Builders who work in towns and villages across the Bay.
We have been working closely with statutory bodies such as Torbay Council and the Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust to ensure older people have a voice at every level of decision making.
Torbay joins 1,114 cities and communities in 44 countries covering 262 million people worldwide, that aim to ensure that older people are included in community life and promote healthy and active ageing.
There are more than 40 UK cities, towns, boroughs, districts, counties, and city-regions in the UK – the only other ones in the South West, being Bristol and Melksham in Wiltshire – working together to share learning and promote age-friendly practices.
But in many ways, it is the beginning of the journey, not the end and is a way of guaranteeing that all age groups – older people in particular, but not at the expense of any others – feel empowered in their daily lives.
Torbay is special for many reasons, not least the fact that it has one of the largest ageing populations in the country with over 50-year-olds now making up around 50% of the population – and that represents decades of experience and knowledge that should not be side-lined just because of age.
Torbay Council leader Steve Darling signed up to the network in a letter to WHO in which he said, “We are proud that Torbay is an Age-Friendly unitary authority in the UK and commit to ensuring that the voices of older people are at the heart of our local decision-making.”
In the same letter, he noted that the council’s stance was shared by NHS organisations – Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, Devon Partnership Trust and Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust who are all committed to providing age-appropriate health and wellbeing services.
Also, behind the bid for Age-friendly status is the Torbay Assembly which has drawn up a charter focussing on the needs, desires, and aspirations of older people across the Bay.
To achieve full Age-friendly status, both the statutory and voluntary sector will concentrate on eight areas as identified by WHO in a bid to improve the lives of older people in their communities:
There are eight key features of Age-friendly communities all of them viewed from an older person’s perspective and with older people consulted about them wherever possible:
- Outdoor spaces and public buildings – that are pleasant, clean, secure, and physically accessible. The roads and pavements need to be well maintained and there should be toilet facilities as well as outdoor seating.
- Transport – always an interesting subject in Torbay. Public transport must be accessible and affordable with specialised services for the disabled. It also considers a good taxi service and affordable parking for private cars.
- Housing must be affordable, in the right places close to services and facilities. It must be well built, well designed, secure and allow people to stay in place as they grow older.
- There must be opportunities for older people to take part in leisure, social, cultural, and spiritual activities with people of all ages and cultures.
- Older people must be treated with respect and be included in civic life – the Torbay Assembly will be part of this.
- There are opportunities for older people to be able to be employed if they choose to and to be able to volunteer
- Age-friendly communication and information is accessible, jargon-free and available
- And finally, community support and health services are tailored to older people’s needs.
It is a big agenda, but not insurmountable and represents all aspects of public life that will help drive the whole Bay towards being the best possible place for everyone to live in, grow up in and grow old in.
And older people, as they deserve, will be involved in the decision making every step of the way.