My vision for an age-friendly city: John, Torbay
Around 50% of Torbay’s population is over the age of 50. This makes it especially important to have a platform for older members so that their area can be a better place to grow old in.
John Gunson, a member of the Torbay Ageing Well Programme Board, looks at how Torbay is working to become a more age-friendly area, and what it would mean if the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing was a success.
When I reached 70 I was very happy to indulge my personal hobbies – family history and golf with friends – and enjoy my home life. However different issues call at different times.
It all started in 2017 when I was introduced to the Ageing Well Programme, funded by the National Lottery, and I was subsequently invited to apply to be a lay member of the Ageing Well Programme Board. This inducted me into all the amazing work that was going on.
A year or so later, I was invited to an Age-Friendly event at Paignton, where I learned about the Age-Friendly movement. That led me to join two Working Parties, which in turn got the Torbay Over 50s’ Assembly (TOFA) started. TOFA enables over 50s to discuss what’s important to them, share those views with peers from around the bay and ensure that over 50s have a powerful platform to voice their concerns and ultimately make Torbay a better place to live and grow older in. TOFA also helped develop the Age Positive Charter which includes aspirations for all voluntary, statutory and businesses to have a role in making Torbay a place to Age Positively.
I became involved with the Transform Ageing programme, run by the Design Council. This programme brought together people in later life, social entrepreneurs, and health and social care leaders to develop solutions that better support the needs and aspirations of our ageing communities. As a consequence, I became the Falls Prevention Volunteer Ambassador, and a member of the Falls and Frailty Steering Group within the NHS Trust. I am now involved in Frailty Identification Projects and the newly revised Fracture Prevention Service.
In what ways is Torbay already a great place for older adults?
Ageing Well Torbay works with partners to provide important services for older residents. Examples include the Staying Put programme, which helps people remain in their own homes for as long as possible by providing advice on everything from finding local health or social care support, to low-cost DIY services. And the Digital Inclusion programme, run by Healthwatch Torbay, which involves showing people exactly how they can use the internet to do things like book medical appointments, order repeat prescriptions, self-refer or share their feedback.
Also, Net Friends is a service which offers practical assistance to people wishing to make more of their digital devices. For my own health I signed up for Strength and Balance classes, run by the Healthy Lifestyles team. Attending for around two and a half years before the pandemic struck definitely improved my balance and strengthened my ankles.
How will Torbay change if the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing is a success?
Hopefully I will see a more harmonious Bay, where residents are healthier and exercise classes – Tai Chi, swimming, dancing, cycling and walking – are just what people do. Health-related services will take many different approaches to improving people’s health – the rise of Social Prescribing! And the public will have a greater voice in decision-making, leading to greater understanding, engagement, and commitment.
The views and opinions expressed in this guest blog are those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the policy or positions of the Centre for Ageing Better.