Three Pilot projects have been developed in collaboration with local older people - improving feelings of safety at home: Feeling Safe, working with local businesses to make the high street more welcoming: Feeling Welcome, and encouraging take up of volunteering opportunities: Feeling Connected.
The project is a vital part of the recovery from the pandemic, reducing social isolation and connecting older residents back in with community life. It adopts the principles in the partnership way of working in The Sutton Plan which enables organisations in the Borough to come up with a shared vision and work with each other to improve the quality of life for residents.
In January 2020 Sutton became the 40th member to join the UK network of Age Friendly Communities, part of a World Health Organisation initiative which has more than 1,000 members worldwide.
This network aims to ensure that older people are valued, supported, and recognised in communities, under eight evidence-based domains.
Sutton chose to use these domains to develop into the three cross cutting themes for the pilot following a year of engagement with the local community. The engagement period included listening exercises that were representative of older people in Sutton by collaborating with BAME and faith groups. They held virtual listening events with the involvement of more than 200 residents to provide in-depth feedback which allowed the identification of practical steps to make a difference for older people.
Why become age friendly
Sutton has an ageing population with 27.5% of Sutton population 55+ (56,886 people) and 7.4% over 75 (15,270 people), and projections are that the proportion of those over 55 will continue to increase, therefore they believe that it is right thing to do to build a stronger community. Furthermore they have learnt from using the Age Friendly lens and looking at the borough through the eyes of the older population, that Age Friendly practices tend to benefit everyone. For example by increasing the accessibility of businesses for older people, will, in turn do this for the rest of the population.
Progress so far
The first pilot involved engaging with local businesses to identify areas where they can make improvements to help older people feel more welcomed. A group of older people are then going to act as mystery shoppers and carry out reviews of the business and then develop suggestions for improvement. After this they hope to develop an accreditation scheme.
The second strand of work focuses on safety at home. Trained volunteers have been working with older people to assess their home environment, looking at a range of risks and issues, including physical risk, psychological wellbeing, and connection to the community.
Finally for the third strand, Age UK Sutton and the Council will be developing a campaign to encourage and support later life volunteering in the borough, including challenging stereotypes of the skills and interests of older people.
Future work and impact
As they are in the pilot stage of this, they are still in the process of collecting evidence of impact and stories from the programme, but they will be producing a report this summer that will inform steps next year. So far it has been extremely beneficial learning from residents and looking at the work and activities that have been carried out through the eyes of this demographic. It will help feed into and inform future work, in particular around equalities.