By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead
Ageing Well Torbay is dead. Long live ageing well in Torbay.
It is hard to believe that it is seven years since Ageing Well arrived in Torbay and what a difference it has made to so many lives, particularly the lives of older people.
The aims were simple, to reduce levels of isolation and loneliness in over 50-year olds living in Torquay, Brixham and Paignton. Fulfilling those aims was no mean feat and whilst a great deal has been achieved, there remains much to be done.
The work that was started, along with the lessons learned during the Ageing Well programme, will continue as Torbay Community Development Trust moves onto a new and exciting phase – where people of all ages will be the focus of our work.
Our Community Builders, whose work, already important before the COVID crisis, showed during the lockdowns that their efforts at a grassroots level in towns and villages across the Bay, were indispensable.
They knew where the issues were, where a lot of the vulnerable people were, and where the help was needed, which was how we were able to set up the Torbay Community Helpline a week before the first lockdown came into effect way back in March 2020.
We now know even more about the very core of our communities as the Helpline helped us discover many more vulnerable people living in the Bay, but it has also shown us that the work we were already doing was effective.
Our way of working with and alongside our communities has allowed us to prove the point that we all have what we need, when we share what we have and that is what happened when coronavirus struck.
Neighbours and friends across the Bay were there for each other and we discovered an army of volunteers prepared to do whatever was necessary to make sure their communities remained strong and resilient.
Going forward, the Ageing Well Torbay programme may no longer be with us, but the principles remain and the work of the Community builders will continue finding connections within a community and helping them to thrive.
Torbay Council has recognised the value of the community building team and has provided funding to enable the work to continue – work that is done with others, working alongside, not for.
We have helped set up literally hundreds of things over the years, from coffee mornings to tea dances, from yoga classes to walking groups, from craft gatherings to woodworking sessions and many, many more, all of which have one thing in common – they are set up with the help of a Community Builder, but they are organised and continue to be run people in the communities they serve.
It is a model that we will be pursuing as we look to work with more individuals and groups from all ages from the youngest to oldest from the sedentary to the fittest; there really will be something for everyone.
But we will also continue to work on making Torbay a truly Age-friendly community, a journey we began with Torbay Council and the Torbay Assembly at the end of 2019, just before coronavirus struck.
Age-friendly looks at seven areas of concern – communication, environment, transport, participation, housing, health and respect and works towards a better community for people of all ages to thrive.
The work of the Torbay Assembly will also continue, to ensure that the voices of all age groups in the Bay are represented and are heard at every level, particularly among the decision-makers on Torbay Council and on various other statutory bodies including the NHS.
And finally, after several near misses, we are now pressing ahead with the final Ageing Well Torbay Festival, which has a new date that will go ahead, without interference from COVID – Saturday, September 17th.
Once again, we will be taking over the Riviera Centre in Torquay for a celebration of the Bay’s talents with a look back over the last seven years, alongside a nod to the future.
It has been a long time coming – we had to take two previous festivals online because of the virus, but this time around, it is in person, or not all. So put the date in your diary, cross your fingers and watch this space for updates.