Tag Archives: older people’s commissioner for wales

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.


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.

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!

A declaration of independence

We recently held shared learning seminars with the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales on the continued independence of older people. Sarah Rochira, the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, outlines her thoughts on independence.

Sarah Rochira, Older People's Commissioner for WalesI was delighted to attend the Shared Learning Seminars in Cardiff and Llanrwst in July 2015, two excellent seminars organised by the Good Practice Exchange team. It was a pleasure to see so many service providers from the public and third sectors, as well as older people themselves, attending. The fantastic attendance, the wide range of matters discussed and the exchange of ideas and good practice showed that this is an issue that resonates with many and that maintaining the independence of older people is important for providers, communities and individuals alike.

My focus was on the misconceptions and anomalies that exist around older people in public service delivery:

  • The needs and interests of older people are confined to health and social care: All policy areas and portfolios are relevant to older people and ensuring that housing, transport, education and leisure services, for example, are working together to help maintain the independence of older people is a key priority for me and something that I am working on with governments at all levels. Furthermore, service planning should be done with older people rather than to them. Older people possess a wealth of knowledge and experience and as regular users of services, are ‘experts by experience’ in how services should be delivered.
  • Older people require large-scale strategies, plans and policies: In my discussions with older people across Wales I never hear about strategies and plans. What older people need to help maintain their independence are the small things that often make all the difference. Adaptations to people’s homes and innovative cost-effective investments in ‘lifeline’ community services such as public buses, toilets and libraries are crucial in this regard. Older people ask for very little and these small-scale investments can make all the difference in keeping older people active and engaged with their communities.
  • Older people are the sole beneficiaries and recipients of public services: Older people are worth over £1bn to the Welsh economy annually. Wales’ public services would simply grind to a halt without the huge contribution of older people through volunteering and unpaid care, for example. Older people are invaluable assets and we should be investing in them to increase their contribution to economies and communities across Wales. Older people and the impact of an ageing population are frequently referred to in negative, derogatory ways and we need the public, private and third sectors to work together and change our starting point: frailty and dependence are not an inevitable part of ageing and with a little help, older people can contribute so much more. An ageing population brings it with many opportunities if we change the language and take an asset-based approach.

During the seminars, it was wonderful to not only hear about the exciting and innovative schemes underway across Wales to support older people to maintain their independence – from pop-up libraries in the Vale of Glamorgan, to gardening clubs in Wrexham, integrating services in rural Ceredigion and digital inclusion classes elsewhere – but to also hear from older people themselves about their views and experiences, and the difference that these services can make to their lives. As always, quite simply inspiring.

I was also pleased to hear that the Ageing Well in Wales Programme has inspired older people as well. The five priority themes of the Programme all have a crucial role in supporting older people to maintain their independence and with over 450 network members now working on Ageing Well aims in communities across Wales, the Programme is gathering pace.

Following the seminars and subsequent Wales Audit Office report I am keen to keep the momentum going and I will continue the excellent co-operation with the Auditor General for Wales and the Good Practice Exchange team to ensure that the importance of maintaining the independence of older people is recognised by everyone and beneficial for all.

Service deliverers need to work together towards the same outcomes. A preventative approach and the integration of services are crucial to enable older people to get out and about and have lives that have value, meaning and purpose. This approach will improve the resilience of individuals and communities alike, reducing the dependence on our health and social care services and ensuring that Wales is a good place to grow older – not just for some, but for everyone.