By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead
Ageing Well Torbay is coming to an end after an amazing seven years of successfully preventing loneliness in people aged 50 years and over.
We can look back with pride at the many innovatory methods we have used down the years to bring people together and to allow whole new communities to grow.
Ageing Well introduced social prescribing in the Bay via our wonderful colleagues at Ageing Well UK and Brixham Does Care and since then, hundreds if not thousands of older people have been helped as a result.
We have produced seven Ageing Well Festivals at various venues across the Bay, which have showcased the cream of Torbay’s talent to audiences of up to two thousand people, though sadly, we are struggling to bring you a final legacy festival because of complications with venues and COVID.
We introduced Community Builders across eighteen areas of the Bay, which is on a scale never seen before. They have nurtured connections in communities to bring an unprecedented variety of events and social groups, now run by the people who helped set them up.
Relatively early on, we ran what we called food for thought sessions in which we asked over 50’s what they wanted to see in the Bay, out of which came a whole series of initiatives that have been carried forward and established.
We also introduced an Innovation Fund designed to increase the range of affordable activities available, increase the opportunities for people to benefit from the skills of older people and create better access to affordable technology for information.
Our funding helped achieve many of those goals. The majority of the funded projects are still running and still delivering around those goals today, which means that when AWT stops as a project, they will be able to continue regardless.
Our food for thought focus groups identified other areas that older people wanted us to concentrate efforts on key areas including social activities, transport, housing, improving the image of older people, giving them a voice and the environment.
Those findings provided to be very prescient as each want matched almost perfectly the ambition to become one of the World Health Organisation’s Age-Friendly designated areas, an ambition that we continue to work towards with other agencies in Torbay – work that again will continue through another of our projects, the Torbay Assembly.
At the core, everything we have done has been the mantra – give older people the services they want rather than the services we think they need – and in that, we have been successful.
Along the way, we have improved the lives of thousands of people that we have come into contact with reducing the number of visits to doctor’s surgeries – many caused by loneliness triggering depression and the same can be said for hospital visits.
We also have solid proof that a great many people now have much more social contact with others, through a wide range of social activities from coffee mornings, to exercise classes, from workshops to model railway clubs with everything in between.
When coronavirus arrived in the Bay in March 2020, it was Ageing Well Torbay and a handful of other organisations, with which it had close ties, that were in the best position to help self-isolating vulnerable people and so the Torbay Community Helpline was born.
The Helpline now provides access to some of the other services that were asked for by older people such as FAIR (Financial Advice Information and Resilience) which was set up with the help of AWT. It is a support service provided by the community for the community and is proving invaluable as the far-reaching effects of the crisis continue to take their toll.
The Staying Put and handyman service, which is also accessed via the Helpline, aims to keep people in their homes for longer by taking care of some of the jobs residents find they are no longer able to do.
Mental health services, some of which have been established alongside AWT can be accessed via the Helpline as can technology support for the digitally excluded.
The above is by no means a comprehensive list of everything achieved over seven years, but just a top of the head look back at things to celebrate.
And worry not, Ageing Well might be coming to an end, but its work will continue through our network of Community Builders who will be expanding their work to take in young and old alike.
Watch this space.