She then introduced the first speaker, Councillor Alison Gingell, who is the Cabinet Lead for Health and Adult Services, and the Chair of the Health and Wellbeing Board for Coventry City Council. Alison spoke about the importance of regarding older people as an asset rather than a problem. She said that an important aim of the Age Friendly Coventry programme should be to enable them to participate in and contribute to society and the affairs of the City.
Councillor Gingell emphasized the need to tackle social isolation within the City, and welcomed the opportunity that the meeting provided to prioritise the issues and activities that were most important in making Coventry more age friendly.
The next speaker was Michael Vincent, who is Chief Executive Officer of Age UK Coventry. Michael first spoke briefly about the role of Age UK Coventry in supporting older people in the City. He said that they are sometimes considered to be second class citizens, and that “we want to change that.” He said that the Age Friendly Cities programme provided an ideal opportunity to do so.
Mr. Vincent agreed with Councillor Gingell that social isolation is a particular problem, and said that (projected from national figures) 4,000 older people in Coventry go for a month or more without meeting anyone, and that (according to research by Coventry University) 15,000 say that they feel lonely on some or most days. He also praised Coventry Older Voices, describing its aims and activities, and said that it would be one of the keys to making an Age Friendly Coventry happen.
Next Professor Guy Daly reported on research carried out at Coventry University, including an “Older People Needs Assessment Survey”. In particular, this highlighted the increased health provision that would be needed by an increasingly ageing population. Professor Daly applauded the “Active Ageing” approach promoted by the Age Friendly Cities programme, recognizing that older people can and should be regarded as an asset rather than a problem.
Professor Day’s talk ended the morning speakers’ session, after which everyone present took part in workshops on three of eight themes, according to their individual interests. The topics of the workshops were the eight categories of “Age Friendly Cities Essential Features”:
Participants were asked to assess their relative importance, to what extent they currently applied, and how they could be met. Opinions were recorded, to be fed back to the organisers.
The main session was re-convened for the final speaker, Mr. John Forde (a Public Health Consultant with Coventry City Council). John said that he had met a lot of very vocal people during the event, assuring us that this was intended as a compliment! He then explained what would happen as a result of the meeting …
In order to be recognised as an Age Friendly City by the WHO, the Council would need to submit an application, and to commit to a cycle of continuous improvement. The Health and Wellbeing Board (Chaired by Councillor Gingell) would meet in January. The outcomes of the days’ various workshop sessions would be fed back to the attendees. A plan of action, based on these results, and ensuring the involvement of older people, would then be drawn up. Meeting participants were asked to indicate, as they were leaving, what they thought should be the three most important points in the action plan.
Finally Lissa Clarke, a member of the COV committee, made an appeal to the City Council and to Coventry University for “a few pounds” to help with the costs of running the organisation. No immediate reply was expected (or forthcoming!), but any response will of course be reported on this website.