Ageing Well in Wales

Earlier this month, Bethan Smith attended the Ageing Well in Wales communities event in Bangor, hosted by the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales. In this blog, Bethan shares her thoughts on the day…

The Good Practice Exchange team have worked with the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales on a number of occasions now, so we were delighted to be involved in the Ageing Well in Wales event.

To provide some background, Ageing Well in Wales is a national Programme hosted by the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales. It brings together individuals and communities with public, private and voluntary sectors to develop and promote innovative and practical ways to make Wales a good place to grow older for everyone.

There are 5 principles of the programme:

  • To make Wales a nation of age friendly communities
  • To make Wales a nation of dementia supportive communities
  • To reduce the number of falls
  • To reduce loneliness and unwanted isolation
  • To increase learning and employment opportunities

I could tell as soon as I arrived in Bangor that it was going to be a worthwhile morning. There was a real buzz in the room, you could just tell that everyone there had a real passion in helping improve the lives of older people in Wales, and the agenda for the morning highlighted the range of organisations that play a key role in achieving this. With the number of older people in Wales projected to increase, it was great to see so many organisations recognising the importance of supporting this particular community.

I was really pleased to hear the first presentation from David Worrall, British Red Cross, which focused on partnership working in Wales. Partnership working is so important if public services are to deliver the key priorities of the Ageing Well in Wales programme. In a time where budgets are ever decreasing, no single service has the answers alone, which is why we need to pull together and think differently and innovatively when it comes to service delivery.  A speaker at one of our events once said ‘we may not be cash rich in Wales, but we are resource rich’. Older people are a huge resource to Wales, we should be utilising the skills and knowledge they have when redesigning services. Their insight and knowledge is absolutely priceless.

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A great example of partnership working that David shared was the Camau Cadarn initiative. The British Red Cross and Royal Voluntary Service are joining forces to launch a new three-year programme to deliver essential services to older people who find themselves in need of support to regain their independence. You can read more about the project on the British Red Cross website.

Another example of partnership working in North Wales was delivered by Pete Harrison, Artisans Collective CIC. Artisans Collective CIC offer a unique community facility in Prestatyn, where Artisans, Artists and Craftspeople display and sell their handmade art and craft items on the Old Library shelves. Not only that, but Pete and the team have increasingly become involved in community health and wellbeing in Prestatyn. They play a key role in the community working in partnership with various organisations to help signpost residents to relevant services. They are also involved in various initiatives helping to prevent social isolation and anti social behaviour in the town. They are now working alongside Healthy Prestatyn (an innovative model of primary health care) looking into social prescribing, and how their work in the community can assist this. After hearing Pete’s presentation, I went to visit the team in Prestatyn and it’s really clear to see how much of a positive impact they have on the community. This small facility gives groups of potentially vulnerable people a safe place to socialise and learn new skills. Pete has agreed to speak at our seminar on ‘Public Services working in partnership for better health and wellbeing‘ on 7 December in Cardiff, along with Alexis from the Healthy Prestatyn team.

Speaking of learning new skills, we also heard from Hilary Jones from the University of the 3rd Age (U3A). The U3A is an international organisation for retired and semiretired people providing educational, creative and leisure activities. Each U3A is made up of a range of interest groups where the members learn from each other in a friendly, informal atmosphere. The clear message from Hilary was that just because you’ve stopped working, it doesn’t mean you have to stop learning! There are opportunities out there for everyone. The biggest bonus from the U3a programme is not only the learning opportunities, but the friendships made and opportunities to socialise. A great example of a project which is helping achieve several of the key priorities of Ageing Well in Wales.
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These three examples alone demonstrate the positive steps being taken by organisations to help tackle issues facing older people in Wales. There were many other examples shared at the event which I’ll be looking at in my next blog.

So for me, some of the key points I took away from the event were:

  • Going forward, working in partnership is key to help deliver the key priorities of the Ageing Well in Wales programme, to prevent demand on services, and most importantly to help older people maintain independence and quality of life.
  • Older people have a wealth of knowledge and experience which needs to be utilised when designing services – they are the experts, let’s work with them! This should be the case for all citizens, regardless of age.
  • There is a fantastic group of passionate, dedicated people within the Ageing Well in Wales network who are making huge steps in making Wales a better place for people to grow older. The challenge is how we help replicate those steps across all public services (not just health and social care). Something for the Good Practice team to think about when planning our work programme for next year.

I’ll be attending the second Ageing Well event in Cardiff on 15th December, so keep a look out for my next blogs!

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