Different places, common challenges: Age-friendly Sefton visit Leeds
Members of Age-friendly of Sefton visited Leeds late in 2019, to find out about the work being done there to make it the best city to grow old in.
Age-friendly Sefton write about their visit and what they learned about the commonalities and differences between the two Age-friendly Communities.
Sefton joined the UK Network of Age-friendly Communities, as well as the WHO Global Network of Age-friendly Cities and Communities, in 2018. The network brings together places committed to fostering healthy and active ageing and putting the voices of older people at the heart of local decision-making. Here in Sefton, 45% of the population are aged 50 or over, so the journey to becoming age-friendly is crucial to meeting people’s needs now and in the future.
In October 2019, a group of us from Age-friendly Sefton journeyed to Leeds to find out about the age-friendly work going on there, and to bring back new ideas and reflections that we could apply to our own work in Sefton. We had been very keen to learn from Leeds, as it was an initial inspiration for our application to become an age-friendly community. We have been aware for some time of Leeds’ Older People’s Charter and the links Leeds have developed with the Centre for Ageing Better and were keen to find out more.
Cllr Rebecca Charlwood, Executive Member for Health, Wellbeing and Adults welcomed us. She began by telling us about the Age Friendly Leeds programme of work and their Neighbourhood Network approach to delivering services and support to older people. We were very interested to learn about their collaborative working with health colleagues in terms of planning and delivering services. We then had a presentation from the Leeds Older People’s Forum. In Leeds, this is a much larger organisation than in Sefton, where the Older People’s Forums are run as a project of Sefton Advocacy. However, it became clear during discussions that the remit of the work is slightly different in Leeds. Whereas in Sefton, the Older People’s Forums concentrate on involving and engaging with local older people through a network of forum meetings which take place every month, Leeds Older People’s Forum manages larger projects like the Time to Shine programme which aims to tackle loneliness and social isolation. Meetings of the forum also include representatives of organisations rather than purely older people.
Schemes like Time to Shine and Neighbourhood Networks are successful because they are not one size fits all, but are responding to real community need.
We then heard about a well-developed frailty project looking at falls prevention and working in partnership. This Leeds project combines health provider input with public health messages around movement and nutrition, alongside exercise programmes. The key to its success lies in a joint-working approach. It was useful to hear about this approach as similar work on falls prevention is being undertaken in Sefton. We will take this approach back to our falls prevention programmes with the aim of encouraging more consistent joint working between all those involved. Maintaining continuity in falls prevention provision is an area that we would like to discuss further with Leeds in the future – for example, how to support older people to maintain their strength and balance when the Falls Prevention Programme has come to an end.
We came away from the visit with renewed enthusiasm for Age Friendly Sefton. We were pleased in particular to see the way that older people’s views are meaningfully represented in strategic processes in Leeds. Schemes like Time to Shine and Neighbourhood Networks are successful because they are not one size fits all, but are responding to real community need.
It was reassuring, too, to find out that although we come from quite different places – a City Council area and a Metropolitan Borough – the issues we are dealing with are in many ways the same: housing, transport, access to leisure and keeping people connected.
The Age-friendly Sefton party consisted of Cllr Paul Cummins, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Older People’s Champion for Sefton, Mr Brian Clark OBE, Chair of the Sefton Partnership for Older Citizens, Andrew Booth, Chief Officer of Sefton Advocacy, and Justine Shenton, Older Persons’ Forum Co-ordinator.