Age Allies – Tackling Age Discrimination

Age UK London are proud to announce the start of our new Age Allies project. Using funding from the City Bridge Trust, this programme will see us work alongside businesses and other organisations to combat age discrimination in the capital. Here’s project coordinator Richard Norman to tell us more…

While race and gender, for example, have for some time been prevalent equality issues, ageism has now become the most widely experienced form of discrimination across Europe.

Thankfully, ageism rarely takes the form of blatant insults or abuse. The prejudice faced by older people is usually more subtle but can still have profound effects on self esteem and wellbeing.

I recently discovered that I am categorised as a “Second-Wave Baby Boomer”. This (apparently) identifies my generation. I can’t say I’d ever really considered it before – after all age is just a number, right? Had I been born four years later it would have been “Generation X”, sixteen years earlier and I would be one of the “Silent Generation”.

Do these labels carry any weight? Is there a typical baby boomer? Surely within each age identifying category people are as diverse as in any other. How can there possibly be a typical older person?

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Can there really only be just one type of older person?! I very much doubt it!

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines an age-friendly society as one in which service providers, public officials, community leaders, faith leaders, business people and citizens recognize the great diversity among older persons, promote their inclusion and contribution in all areas of community life, respect their decisions and lifestyle choices, and anticipate and respond flexibly to ageing-related needs and preferences.

Throughout my time working with older people I have consistently heard about experiences which suggest London has a way to go before we can claim that our city is age friendly. Age UK London’s Age Allies Programme, funded by The City Bridge Trust until the end of 2019, aims to work with businesses and organisations to help them identify where their own practice could improve.

Aims of the Age Allies Programme:

  • Explore attitudes and focus on helping people understand the barriers faced by older Londoners.
  • Develop a network of Champions that continue the roll out of workshops internally with their own organisation’s workers and community to maximise programme impact.
  • Compile a London-wide map of organisations which are Age Allies and the changes individuals have committed to make.
  • Share impact with stakeholders and policy makers across London to establish an age-friendly movement, tackling ageism and making ageing a positive experience in London.
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The Age Allies project will see Age UK London work alongside businesses and other organisations to combat age discrimination.

By working with older people to facilitate workshops for employees, we can encourage them to gain insight into their own attitudes and assumptions. With each participant making a commitment to one small change in attitude or behaviour we can encourage positive changes for businesses and for their older customers and service users.

By respecting the diverse needs of older consumers rather than treating them as a homogeneous group, businesses and service providers can avoid making assumptions about people which may lead to inappropriate customer care and unsatisfied consumers.

It’s early days in the life of the programme. There have already been focus groups exploring the experiences of older people. I have recently started in post and I am very much in the development phase. I am meeting and recruiting volunteers and collaborating with them on the design of the workshops. They have a broad range of skills, outlook and experience and much to offer the project. I am enjoying getting to know them and I have high hopes that we will develop into quite a dynamic team.

Alongside my work with the volunteers, I am developing contacts and networks in organisations and businesses of all shapes and sizes. I suspect that your working environment brings you or your colleagues into contact with people. Are some of those people older perhaps?

If this blog post has piqued your interest and you think your organisation may benefit from becoming involved, and you would like a chat about it, please get in touch – rnorman@ageuklondon.org.uk.

Richard Norman

Richard is the Project Co-odinator of the Age Allies programme.

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