Age Allies Chris and Vanda leading the exercises at LSBU.

Age Allies in Action at LSBU

Our Age Allies programme provides free age-awareness workshops to organisations and businesses across London, thanks to funding from the City Bridge Trust. The half-day workshops have been developed in collaboration with a group of older Londoners known as the Age Allies and are designed to help participants identify their own unconscious attitudes and assumptions about older people.

Last week, the Age Allies went on tour, heading down to London South Bank University (LSBU) to showcase some of the exercises that take place during the workshops. Our Age Ally Chris tells us more:

We, the Age Allies, had been kindly asked to ‘man’ a stall at London South Bank University  to participate in their ‘Well-being day’. Our objective was to engage the passing crowd in looking at Age, Ageism and Stereotyping older people by joining in a few exercises. A formidable task I thought, as we usually do this in a three hour workshop! Nevertheless the gauntlet had been thrown down and we tentatively picked it up. There were four of us who where up for the task and duly put up our pitch in the bright airy forecourt of Keyworth House.

We sat behind our stall and it wasn’t long before people started to arrive and were all willing to participate, which was most encouraging!

The Age Allies Exercises

First of all, participants were asked to placed a coloured sticker on a timeline at the age they considered to be “old”. They were then asked to put down another sticker denoting how old they were. As hoped, this elicited much discussion, with people offering why they had put their sticker where they had. We found that many participants based their answer on their parents and grandparents’ ages.

Age Allies Exercise
Our Age Stereotype Test helps to bring out participants’ unconscious biases.

Next we gave out two cards, one with a picture of myself and the other with a picture of my fellow volunteer Vanda. On the reverse of the card, participants were asked to guess our age, what they thought our jobs were, and what we get up to in our spare time. Again this proved to be most engaging and led to many lighthearted discussions as people revealed the reasons behind their answers. It was always interesting to see how each person arrived at their estimate and it allowed us to open up a conversation around unconscious bias – a key theme of our Age Allies work. Their responses were put up on a board for all to see so that we could provoke further discussion. As with all of our Age Allies work, there were no right or wrong answers. What mattered was how and why they arrived their guesses.

Our overall aim was to ‘plant a seed’, to get people to challenge their own views of older people and to help them understand how they formed these opinions. We also hoped that participants would spread the word to friends and family by saying ‘guess what I did today?!’, thus sowing the seed elsewhere.

The overall response during the three hours we spent at LSBU was excellent. We had people from all number of jobs, backgrounds, and ages. The participation was genuine and enthusiastic, which left me feeling like we had achieved our goal and more.

A big thank you to all the participants and another big thank you to the person who placed a free chocolate brownie in front of me!


We’d also like to give a big thank you to Chris for blogging about the day! If you’d like to take part in some of our Age Allies activities, we’ll be taking over part of Tate Modern during the final weekend of April and we’d love to see you there! You can find out all the details by clicking here.

Chris Wilkinson

Chris has been one of our Age Allies since the very start of the project. He keeps all the workshop participants on their toes! In his spare time he can be found playing guitar at his folk club.

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One thought on “Age Allies in Action at LSBU

  1. I completely agree with Chris’s reflections on this event and was also pleasantly surprised by the level of participation and engagement from LSBU staff and (some) students. I think what was often made very clear through our, very interesting, conversations, was how much individual’s perceptions of age and ageing are affected, not only by their own age, but also geographic and cultural specificity.

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