Hugh O’Connor, Age Friendly Ireland, visits Ageing Well in Wales

wales

Ageing Well in Wales is a national partnership programme with the overall aim to improve the lives of people aged 50+ living in Wales. It has five main themes through which it will achieve this aim; Age-Friendly Communities, Dementia Supportive Communities, Falls Prevention, Opportunities for Learning and Employment and Loneliness and Isolation.

The Ageing Well in Wales Programme was officially launched by Wales’ Minister for Health and Social Services, Prof. Mark Drakeford AM on 22nd October 2014. Also speaking at the launch in specific reference to Age-Friendly Communities was Councillor Ellen ap Gwynn, Leader of Ceredigion County Council and Active Ageing and Equalities Spokesperson for the Welsh Local Government Association. Cllr ap Gwynn spoke on behalf of each of Wales’ 22 Local Authorities to confirm their commitment to the Dublin Declaration for Age Friendly Cities and Communities.

With only three cities as defined by population, Wales is a nation of communities, varying in size, nature and geography. Age- Friendly Communities will meet the needs of older people, and people of all ages, in each individual community by responding directly to their needs. Such communities will encourage and enable older people to engage with their surroundings and continue to engage socially within those communities, thereby maintaining their health, independence and wellbeing.

Ageing Well in Wales will now build on the commitment shown by each Local Authority to work with them to consult with older people and develop age-friendly communities across Wales. As part of this work, we were delighted to invite Hugh O’Connor, Chief Executive of Age Friendly Ireland to speak with representatives from across the Local Authorities about age-friendly communities at a recent event.

Hugh spent three days with the Ageing Well team; speaking at engagement events for the Local Authorities in both Cardiff and Llandudno and visiting an independent Age Well “Youth Club for Over 50’s” in Amlwch, on the Isle of Anglesey.

The Age Well Centre is managed by a part-time Coordinator, but its day to day running depends on a number of committed volunteers, most of whom are also members of the centre. For a minimal annual membership fee, members have access to a wide range of volunteer-run activities such as shopping trips, a history group, a choir, gardening, Welsh conversation classes, cooking for men, computers and walking groups. Other sessions are also available at an extra cost to allow for external instructors to be brought in; including tai chi, line dancing and cheerleading.

The centre also promotes intergenerational practice through joint projects with local primary schools, and has an outreach arrangement with a local disabilities group.

Both the Ageing Well in Wales team and Hugh were overwhelmed by the welcome shown to them by the Age Well members, not least by the ‘cooking for men’ group’s freshly made Victoria sponge cakes. Members were keen to share their own stories, including one woman who freely admitted she might not be alive today if she hadn’t found the supportive and social environment of the Age Well Amlwch centre.

In Hugh O’Connor’s words, “The centre has something very intangible about it – a real energy – that goes beyond much of what I have seen before. This is very inspiring and something we could all learn from”. The Amlwch centre is run by and run for the community, which really adds value to the services being provided.

On 27 November 2014 Age Friendly Ireland hosted the Signing Ceremony of the Dublin Declaration on Age Friendly Cities and Communities.  The event marked the commitment of all 31 of Ireland’s Local Authorities to the Dublin Declaration, in the presence of An Taoiseach, the Lord Mayor of Dublin and Mayors and Cathaoirligh from across the country. Despite shared goals, Ageing Well in Wales and Age Friendly Ireland (both of whom  are part of both the AFE-Innovnet network and European Innovation Partnership for Active and Healthy Ageing’s Reference Site Collaborative Network) have taken different approaches to the development of age-friendly cities and communities, utilising the Dublin Declaration in different ways.

Hugh’s visit to Wales was valuable to both Age Friendly Ireland and Ageing Well in Wales, and both organisations look forward to sharing learning and experiences of the age-friendly world in months and years to come.