Monday October 23rd saw the launch of Age UK London’s new Age Allies programme at the Cockpit Arts Studios in Russell Square. We were joined by a whole host of guests, from volunteers, to businesspeople, to older Londoners – all of whom were pleased to support the exciting new project.
Following an introduction from our CEO Paul Goulden, Programme Coordinator Richard Norman unveiled the project, which will deliver free half day workshops for businesses and organisations across London with the aim of combating age discrimination for colleagues and customers alike.
Richard started by discussing the ways in which society views older people and the harmful effects this can often have. In his words, “the language used to describe older people is often very negative” and this is one quick fix that we can make to act in a more age-friendly way in our daily lives. Though some members of the audience made clear that they personally were not affected by words such as “elderly”, “slow”, or even “useless”, there was a general consensus that businesses and organisations should downplay such language as much as possible within the workplace.
The audience were then posed the question “how old is old?”, which naturally drew a whole range of responses – especially once Richard mentioned a video in which the answer given was “40”! This kick-started a discussion as to whether labelling someone as “old” makes them act in way that society thinks older people should behave. As a result, the Age Allies project aims to counteract the “old person” stereotype, by highlighting the individuality of this demographic and making clear that older Londoners are not a homogenous group. In doing so, it is hoped that organisations and businesses can alter the experiences of older customers and service users to stop them from feeling invisible, patronised, and frustrated and to instead make them feel valued, included, and appreciated.
It is for this reason that the Age Allies workshops have been developed with the input of older Londoners and are designed to enable participants to become aware of their own unconscious attitudes and stereotypes about older people. Each participant is asked to make a commitment to one small change in attitude or behaviour to encourage positive changes for businesses and organisations and for their older customers and service users. Organisations that become Age Allies will be able to demonstrate to both their staff and their customers that they are on the path to age-friendly working practice.
Upon explaining this to the assembled group, Richard then kicked off the party by introducing the JONOTE singers, a trio of vocalists who entertained us all with a selection of older favourites – from Frank Sinatra to songs from the Chicago soundtrack. This ensured that the whole audience left with smiles on their faces!
To find out more about the Age Allies programme, please visit the Age UK London website.