Age Allies Blog #6 – Volunteers

What is it that gets me to work on a wet Wednesday? Having a great team…

There is a commonly held belief that as people get older they become less competent. My experience of developing the Age Allies Workshops in collaboration with a group of volunteers, underlines how absurd this notion of older people actually is. The creativity, insight and commitment they bring to the table makes our development meetings productive and great fun. Authentic, open, honest and intelligent are the words that spring to mind. Oh yes, and highly competent!

Through the process of developing and facilitating these age awareness workshops each of us has learnt a lot about ourselves. Principally we have discovered that we are all ageist, you, me, everyone. It is deeply embedded in our culture, hidden in plain sight. We have been absorbing negative messages about age our whole lives. That really isn’t a pleasant thought and we don’t want anyone to feel badly about their own unconscious attitudes and beliefs. What we aim to do is to enable people to uncover some of those attitudes in a supportive and fun way. Paradoxical? Not with this team of class ‘A’, solid gold volunteers!

Two members of the team have written a little bit about their involvement with Age Allies and have given me permission to post their writing here. If, after reading them you would like to find out more about volunteering with us, would like to attend a workshop, or to have a conversation about age awareness, please do get in touch. It’s good to talk about these things!

Jackie Richards

Now I have left fulltime work Age Allies has enabled me to use my past career experience, knowledge and recent doctoral research about aging and stereotyping. I have not retired and become marginalised. My participating in the programme has confirmed that I have contributions to make.

I am learning fast how to be a contributing volunteer rather than having lead responsibility for a project. Richard has been extremely patient and supportive and includes all the volunteers in workshop planning. He takes account of our differing opinions and ideas. I have enjoyed working with other team members. I feel we are building friendly relationships whilst working in professional ways.

The content of the workshops has been well thought-out and the tasks are engaging and useful. It is easy for workshop participants to get involved, making them more reflective about ageing and stereotyping, gaining insights of ways older people can be stereotyped or marginalised, and the positive contributions they can make.

I am in a transition in my life having just completed seven years work on a work-based doctorate and last year having cancer treatment. The Age Allies programme is a project I am enjoying very much and I can fit it in with other commitments and activities. I am a busy person! I am benefitting from participating and feel that my input and ideas are appreciated. I hope I have given Richard and the other volunteers support, and I am happy to contribute as much as I can. Thank you for enabling me to participate.

Frances Holloway

I became an Age Allies volunteer when the workshops were first being set up, and I am greatly enjoying being part of such a friendly, supportive and creative team.

I am the oldest of the volunteers, and have learned a lot. Workshops were a new experience for me, and I have had to use my brain in unfamiliar ways! For instance, I am now more aware of ageist attitudes in myself as well as in other people. I have become more confident about recognising and speaking out against ageism in others, but have also become more aware and appreciative when people are trying to help me, even if they do it in a somewhat clumsy way.

As an example of how I have benefited from working for Age Allies, I now try to be more friendly towards younger people as I travel round London, whereas before I seldom smiled at or spoke to them. At workshops, we often encourage participants to get to know people in different age groups, and perhaps such interactions could help to make life easier for everybody in this busy city.

If you would be interested in volunteering with the Age Allies project, please drop me an email.

Alternatively if you are a member of a business or organisation who would like to take part in a future Age Allies workshop, please book your place via Eventbrite.

Richard Norman

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

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