This blog appears as the foreword to Involving Older Age: The route to twenty-first century well-being, the final report of Shaping our Age, a three year project involving older people to challenge the common perceptions of ageing and question the portrayal of older people and the assumptions that those providing services for them often make.
Sometimes in our working lives we’re lucky to see something that is simple and yet profound. I’ve been privileged to join the Royal Voluntary Service (nee WRVS) a little while after the Shaping our Age project began and have watched the initial findings turned into reality in the local projects.
I use the word profound carefully because while this project hasn’t been about investing in shiny new things or making technology the answer to all our challenges, it has thankfully been about new ways of doing familiar things – with remarkable results.
The project has taught us to listen carefully to older people when they tell us what they want from their lives, to work with them to help create the right results and, although this shouldn’t be a surprise, it has allowed us to experience the enormous difference that results from being involved in shaping your own world.
One of the most resonant things I’ve heard in my time at the Royal Voluntary Service was from someone involved in Shaping our Age who simply told me: “young man, I’ve spent too much time with people telling me what I need rather than listening to what I want”.
Surely getting older shouldn’t mean that people with a lifetime’s experience of building homes and families; of raising and educating children; of working in and for their communities are by virtue of their age less able to express what they want, to make choices and to continue to make a real contribution to society?
This is exciting and innovative research but most importantly it’s a catalogue of wonderful rich human stories that lie at the heart of Shaping our Age. I know that the findings in this report will shape the thinking of our organisation for many years to come; I hope you will read it and feel that way too.
My sincere thanks to all those who have contributed, funded and guided Shaping our Age, but my biggest thanks goes to those who have stopped to listen carefully and acted on what they have heard.
Posted by David McCullough, chief executive of WRVS at 00:00
Wednesday, 26 June 2013.