Every local authority in Wales now has an Older People’s Champion to help deliver the Welsh Government’s ambition to create an Age Friendly Wales, the Deputy Minister for Social Services Julie Morgan has announced.
Wales is the only country in the world where every local authority is fully supported in one nationwide mission to become Age Friendly.
The Deputy Minister met the Age Friendly team at Swansea Council and the elected councillor acting as its Age Friendly Champion on a walk to encourage socialising and reduce loneliness for older people in the city and wider area. It also served as an opportunity to learn more about the concerns and aspirations of older people in the area.
The Welsh Government has made £1.1 million available to local authorities to have an officer in place and to support them as they work towards joining the WHO Global Network of Age Friendly Communities and Cities.
The Deputy Minister for Social Services recently published the first annual update report on delivering Our Strategy for an Ageing Society. Supporting local authorities in becoming age friendly is the flagship project in this strategy and the report sets out progress made towards creating a Wales which celebrates the contribution of older people to society.
Julie Morgan said:
“Population projections suggest that we will see a very sizeable increase in those over 80 in the next few decades. It is therefore vital that we plan for the future we all want, today.
“I am delighted with the progress being delivered which is supporting older people, communities, and service providers to collectively shape how the places they live can become more age-friendly.
“We are also working with partners to address some of the key issues in our ageing society, including the cost-of-living crisis, increasing Pension Credit take up, and adapting our homes.
“The funding is helping local authorities to work towards membership of the World Health Organisation’s Global Network of Age-friendly Cities and Communities, and create great places to grow old.”
In Swansea, the council holds a Social Walking session every Thursday. These support people over 50 to build relationships, share information and connect with services and partner organisations.
They typically attract between 55 and 75 people each week – with the oldest participant so far aged 92.
Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Support, Hayley Gwilliam, said: “The walking session has become a huge success and speaking to those who take part it is incredible how something so seemingly simple as a group walk and coffee can have such a meaningful and positive impact on people’s lives by improving their health and tackling social isolation.
“Our partnership and involvement team has developed a really full and varied programme of activities and events that range from our ageing well choir to ten-pin bowling and silver screen cinema visits as part of our commitment to ensure there are opportunities for our older population to lead active and fulfilling lives.”
Swansea Ageing Well community member Ray Osborne said:
“This scheme advantages so many older people, providing the opportunity to make new friends and a reason to get out of the house and socialise.
“The staff are wonderfully supportive and encouraging to everyone of all ages and capabilities. It has made such a difference to so many people’s lives, and some of them have described it as a lifeline.”
Deputy Minister for Social Services Julie Morgan added:
“This walking group is helping people to live their best lives and age well. It is a fantastic example of partnership working to reduce social isolation and I was delighted to join in and meet some of the residents it is delivering for.”