Following the launch of the Age Friendly Coventry (AFC) Programme in 2015 a formal Governance Board was established under the title of ‘Ageing Well in Mind and Body Board’. Its purpose was to provide strategic leadership and to oversee and manage the decision making process in enabling Coventry to promote active ageing as enshrined in the World Health Organisation Global Network of Age Friendly Cities.
The Coventry Board was made up of representation from the three lead partner organisations who would seek to ensure continued support and progress of the Project, namely the Public Health Department of the City Council, Age UK Coventry and Coventry University along with Kam Kaur, the Transformation Manager for the AFC Project. It was also agreed that Coventry Older Voices would have two representatives on the Board.
So three years on, what is happening now In terms of the Governance Board? Meetings are few and far between. Although they were originally planned to take place every two months there have only been four in the last two years and are very poorly attended. COV’s representatives have always been there as have those from Age UK Coventry and Coventry University along with the programme manager, Kam Kaur. However the chairing of meetings by Coventry City Council has been problematic and lacking in continuity with a number of people undertaking the role.
Much to COV’s surprise a Governance Board meeting was called for 30th January 2018 which Bridget Harper and Val Cawley attended. Once again attendance was disappointing with only seven members present. Councillor Faye Abbott was due to chair the meeting, but unfortunately at the last minute was unable to do so. Other attendees were Michael Garrett (CEO Age UK Coventry), and representatives from Grapevine, the Council’s Public Health Department, Coventry University and Kam Kaur.
Here is some advance news of an event taking place in the Autumn, which is now being planned as part of the Age Friendly Coventry (AFC) project. Because it’s still some way off, details are a bit sketchy, but it certainly appears to be something to interest COV members.
AFC have obtained finance to put on the festival, the aims of which include promoting active and healthy ageing, and helping to close the gap between generations.
It's scheduled to take place on Sunday 1st and Monday 2nd October 2017, at a venue yet to be finalised. The Belgrade Theatre and Coventry Cathedral have been suggested, but the most likely option at the moment seems to be the Fargo Village (in Far Gosford Street).
Here are some of the ideas that are under consideration:
We wish the organisers the best of luck in this project, and we look forward to learning more about it, and of course taking part.
We now know that the Festival will take place at Fargo Village, in Far Gosford Street.
Sunday 1st October will be a day for the public, featuring a variety of activities including exercise classes, inspirational talks, dance workshops and much more. Events take place between 11am and 4pm.
Monday 2nd October will be a day for professionals with talks from experts and discussions on how to support older people in the city.
An investigation into how easy it is to get about in the City centre has been carried out, with the help of COV members, by the transport consultants Steer Davies Gleave. (See the article below entitled “COV Members Take Part in Walkability Audit”). A report has now been produced, and this article presents a summary of some of the main points.
The participants looked at the following aspects of the City centre, and considered whether or not they were age-friendly: benches, street furniture (such as advertising boards and waste bins), walking surfaces, pedestrian crossings, slopes and public toilets.
The locations of particularly good and bad instances of each of the above were recorded on a map. For example, the paths in Spon Street were praised as being in good condition, while the cobblestones around the Cathedral area were considered to make walking more difficult.
The suitability of outdoor seating was found to be very variable. Those that were praised were at a reasonable height (in particular, not too low), were made of a sensible material (not concrete!), and had backrests and armrests and a seat that was not sloping. Quite a few fell short of these requirements. It was also pointed out that most of the benches within the City Centre do not offer protection from the elements.
The shortage of public toilets in some key areas of the City was noted, as was the unsatisfactory condition of those in Pool Meadow bus station.
The audit also highlighted some places where increased maintenance was needed to reduce the potential for slips, trips, and falls, particularly by older people.
The report concluded that in general, Coventry is a very walkable City, but that mapping key features for older people would help to improve their experience and increase accessibility. The information gained will be incorporated into the digital wayfinding ‘totems’ located throughout the City Centre.At the moment, it is not clear whether copies of the report will be available to the public, but we will make enquiries and let you know.
The Walkability Audit is a project initiated by Age-Friendly Coventry, which aims to assess how easy it is to travel on foot in and around the City Centre. It will be of interest to older people in particular, and will look at aspects of walkability such as:
The information that it uncovers will be made available to the public, by means of a “Walkability Guide”, and on the electronic information totems in the City centre. (Editor's note: Yes, we know there are problems with these. We'll look into it and keep you posted).
The project is headed by Coventry University, employing a firm of transport consultants (Steer Davis Gleave), with a group of volunteers (including members of COV) doing test walks. Kate Brown, Val Cawley and Gaile Allen, all members of the COV steering committee, have taken part in the walks, and Kate told us that some of the things they recorded were:
The availability of public toilets is not one of the issues that this project addresses. However, it is certainly an issue that concerns COV, and our volunteers noted that the closure of the Priory Visitor Centre means a further reduction in provision. They also remarked that disabled access to the toilets between the New and Old Cathedrals was via a very circuitous route.COV members were very happy to contribute towards this project, and we now look forward to the publication of the results. We will of course keep you informed.
The previous article on Age-Friendly Coventry discussed some of the problems encountered by the programme, but promised to provide some details of what it was achieving.
So on a much more positive note, there follow descriptions of some (but not all) of the projects now underway, or recently completed, by Age-Friendly Coventry and its partners.
This project led by Age UK Coventry made a successful application for small scale funding from the Department of Health and Public Health England.
An increased number of older people are now able to use a broad range of digital devices such as laptops, tablets and smart phones. The project has enabled participants to use technology not only for daily living such as internet banking but also for social gains. In one case an elderly lady has even started a social group training others in her neighborhood.
The Herbert Art Gallery have worked with student volunteers to deliver iPad taster sessions to members of Age UK Coventry friendship groups in public libraries.
Central Library have as part of supporting the Age-Friendly initiative expanded a successful Gen to Gen project, originally taking place in the Central Library, to the Earlsdon and Stoke libraries. An older person requiring help with a smartphone, camera, tablet or laptop can access free help sessions by leaving their contact details and availability with the library staff. The library staff then arrange the help sessions with volunteers from Coventry University Students, in partnership with Coventry Student Volunteering support service. From the beginning of April 2016, when the project was expanded from the Central library, 33 sessions have taken place, totalling 47 hours in Earlsdon and Stoke Libraries. The project has enabled an increased number of older people to access digital opportunities, particularly benefiting from social networking with friends and family.
Coventry University are piloting an older people’s gym, with a range of equipment kitted out in the Alma Building, Alma Street, to be used for exercises that benefit and appeal to older people.
Coventry University Health and Life Sciences department have also started a study looking at physical activity and functional fitness in adults ages 50-80, the results of which will help to inform further physical activity developments.
A “walkability” audit of the City Centre is to be carried out, to identify the location of public benches and Age-Friendly features such as ramps and rails on key walking routes.
A group of older volunteers will undertake the audit and an external expert consultancy company has been commissioned to develop a walking guide and lead the project. The walkability audit will take place over the summer. The project has been linked to the information totems in the City Centre, whereby the information from the project will be accessible to older citizens.
The project has been held up by the need to obtain “Ethical Approval” from Coventry University, but COV understands that this has now been achieved.
A funding bid to Tesco’s community fund was undertaken in partnership with Coventry Fab Lab, and the City council planning department. The successful funding bid for 8k will enable the design and implementation of public benches in the City Centre, at locations identified by the walkability audit.
Fab Lab Coventry are also offering older volunteers an opportunity to get involved in a workshop and utilize a range of equipment to design and develop almost anything! Tools on offer are Computer Aided Design (CAD) modelling, laser cutters, 3-axis CNC milling machines, 3D printers, printed circuit board milling, microprocessor and digital electronics design, assembly, and test stations and equipment and materials for sewing and casting. A number of older volunteers, particularly men, have signed up.
The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum has piloted free “Awaken the Arts” sessions, designed specifically for people with dementia, and their carers, friends or partners to enjoy together.
The sessions are a chance to explore the visual arts collection with an art education specialist and have been well received by the 40 participants that have been involved to date, and they have expressed their interest in accessing these types of activities on an ongoing basis. This has increased social opportunities for a specific target group that do not have access to this type of provision within the region.
A good neighbours scheme has been developed, in partnership with Age UK Coventry and Coventry Churches, to increase supportive one-to-one contact with the most isolated older people.
The scheme will use six locality hubs as a base to recruit volunteers, and to get local people and organisations involved in providing and supporting older people to engage in social activities.
The scheme is being shaped with statutory partners and will be a pilot project. The impact on isolation and loneliness will be closely monitored. The project is due to start imminently with the confirmation of funding.
Age UK Coventry have mapped local social activities by neighbourhood geographical area.
They are developing paper-based guides for each CV area in an Age-Friendly way, (including photos of venues, a map, quotes from the group and bus routes) to ensure older people are aware of the activities available to them in their local community. Mapping of CV2 is complete, and mapping of CV1 and CV4 is underway. Feedback so far has been good.
The Transport Workshop, organised by Coventry University, took place over two days (14th and 15th June) at the Herbert Art Gallery. Regrettably (despite being advertised on this website!) it attracted very few older people (but lots of academics and consultants). In the view of some COV members that did attend, this defeated the purpose of the exercise.
They also said that there were no lunch breaks between workshops, and “little sensitivity of older people’s needs”. The central theme of transport to hospitals and health services, they said, was not adhered to, but was lost in discussion of public transport in general.
We are sorry if you went along and were disappointed. However, we still strongly support the Age-Friendly Coventry programme, believe that the vast majority of its initiatives are very worthwhile, and would encourage you to take part if you can.
You may of course disagree entirely with the opinions expressed here, and may take a much more positive view of these workshops. If this is the case, then please do let us know, and we will report your views accordingly.
In our last report on the Age-Friendly Coventry (AFC) initiative (13th April) we expressed our disappointment at the poor attendance at meetings of the participants. The programme manager, Kam Kaur, kindly offered to speak to the COV steering committee to address our concerns, at a meeting on 26th May. In this article we will voice our views on AFC’s progress. Please note that they are indeed our opinions, and are not necessarily shared by Kam Kaur or the organisations funding AFC (Coventry City Council, Coventry University and Age UK Coventry).
The first stage of the project was all about identifying the issues to be tackled. This involved researching the views of everyone who had an interest in making Coventry a better place for older people to live, or who could play a part in bringing this about. In particular, it meant getting the opinions of older people themselves. COV played a significant role in this exercise, and many members attended public meetings and workshops to identify the actions that were needed, and to prioritise them.
In our opinion this went very well, and as a result a comprehensive list of areas where action could be taken to improve the lot of older people was drawn up, ranging from upgrading street lighting to providing more community events. As it would not be possible to address all of the issues at once, they were prioritized to match the results of the public consultations, and “Theme Groups” were set up to deal with the areas of Transport, Social Participation, and Communication & Information. So far so good ...
The membership of each theme group was established, and included businessmen, Council employees, and service providers (such as the NHS and transport organisations), and COV representatives. An overall governing body to oversee the project (with the not-so-snappy name of the “Ageing Well in Mind and Body Board”) was set up. Each theme group drew up an “action plan”, based on the outcomes of the previous consultation events.
The action plans themselves consisted of practical initiatives, such as providing arts and craft activities for older people, and improving transport so that people were able to attend them. An attempt was made to identify people to take part in these initiatives, and people to lead them.
For the most part these individuals would have to commit themselves to AFC work in addition to their normal activities. This seems to have been only partly successful. Some initiatives have indeed gone ahead and have achieved or are achieving positive outcomes. We will bring you further details of some of these shortly. However, in several instances, individuals or organisations have not been able to fulfil the commitments they made. Hence the poor attendance of meetings, and the lack of progress of the initiatives.
This is indeed disappointing, especially in view of the commitment and determination of some of those involved, in particular Kam Kaur, the project manager. However, it would seem that a new approach is now called for.
Until now there has been considerable reliance on participants contributing time and energy to AFC in addition to their normal duties. This appears to have been over-optimistic, and it is now thought that paid project workers are needed. These of course cost money, which is not easy to come by in times of austerity, so Kam will be focusing her attention on attempting to raise the profile of the project and applying for funding. This will of course mean she has less time to devote to managing individual initiatives, and it may result in fewer of them coming to fruition, but this is unavoidable. Moreover, there will be an increased emphasis on initiatives aiming to improve health and social care, and to prevent problems in these areas.
All-in-all this is a significant re-think - less ambitious in scope but perhaps more realistic and practical. We wish Kam Kaur (and all the AFC participants) well. We believe this is a project well worth persevering with, and appreciate that it is not easy with the limited resources available. COV will continue to provide support wherever we can.Don’t forget - there are plenty of opportunities to contribute to the work of COV and/or AFC. If you want to be involved, then do get in touch via the Contact Us page.
COV has representatives on the three “Theme Groups” of the Age-Friendly Coventry programme, who report on progress at meetings of the Steering Committee.
The last meeting of the Transport Theme Group was said to be poorly attended, although those that did attend held an interesting and useful dialogue. Matters discussed included:
Our representative informed us that Communications Theme Group meetings tended to be poorly attended, and that the last meeting had been suspended.
The last meeting of the Social Participation Theme Group had also been cancelled.
The next meeting of the “Ageing Well in Mind and Body” board, which oversees the Age-Friendly Coventry Programme, has been put back six weeks – without explanation.
All of this is obviously very disappointing. We will attempt to find the reasons for the delays and cancellations, and will keep you informed. It should be stressed, however, that although COV is a collaborator/contributor in the Age-Friendly Coventry programme, we are an independent organisation, and our activities continue as normal.
Age Friendly Coventry have made a successful bid for funding from Tesco for the installation of benches in the City Centre.
Tesco’s “Bags of Help” initiative offers community groups and projects in each of Tesco’s 390 regions across the UK a share of revenue generated from the five pence charge levied on single-use carrier bags. The scheme is described in detail on Tesco's site.Age Friendly Coventry will receive £8,000.
The previous article on the Age Friendly Coventry initiative (22 July 2015) reported on how the needs and aims of older people in Coventry had been researched, and that “theme groups” had been set up to tackle the issues identified. It was decided to concentrate initially on three themes: Social Participation, Communication and Information, and Transport.
The first two of these groups have met twice, and each has drawn up a draft “action plan”. These are quite lengthy and detailed, so just a few items of interest have been selected from each one and are shown below. At this stage, they contain ideas rather than concrete plans, and it cannot be guaranteed that all them will come to fruition.
At the time of writing, the Transport theme group had met, but had not produced an action plan.
Initiative: City centre seating and toilets.
Details: “Interactive wayfinding totems” (electronic information points) are to be installed in the City centre, which will include information on the nearest seating and public toilets.
Initiative: Visual art project for people with dementia and their partners / family carers.
Details: Pilot event.
Lead: Herbert Museum and Art Gallery.
Initiative: Locally based good neighbours scheme.
Details: The aims are to increase supportive one-to-one contact with the most isolated older people, to raise awareness of local activities, and to support and encourage more people to join in.
Leads: Coventry Churches and Age UK Coventry.
Initiative: Schools project.
Details: Linking older people and older people’s groups with schools for one-off events or regular volunteering.
Lead: Retired Senior Volunteer Programme (RSVP).
Initiative: Encouraging retail businesses to introduce a more age friendly environment.
Details: Develop and introduce an age friendly business scheme which provides an age friendly kite mark for those that meet the criteria of the scheme.
Lead: City Centre Manager, Coventry City Council.
Initiative: Improve access to information technology and support.
Details: An “Ipad Café”, at which older people could bring in their electronic tablets, smartphones, etc. for advice and support.
Lead: Age UK Coventry / Libraries.
Initiative: Raise awareness of active ageing.
Details: Develop a training course which is delivered to organisations to promote active ageing to their older workforce as part of retirement planning.
Lead: To be appointed.
Initiative: Develop the Age Friendly Website.
Details: A basic version is now online (http://www.coventry.gov.uk/agefriendlycoventry) which needs further development.
Lead: Age Friendly Coventry project manager.
Initiative: Update and develop the Older People’s Guide.
Details: This is a centralised information booklet, listing services and resources available for older people, which will be based on a similar publication produced by Age UK Coventry in 2013.
Lead: Age UK Coventry.
In the opinion of the COV representatives on the board that oversees the Age Friendly Coventry project, it is a worthwhile and commendable undertaking. The participants are enthusiastic and sincere, and we believe it will produce concrete results.
It does seem to be taking a long time to get going – and it is disappointing that the Transport theme group has yet to submit an action plan. However, the World Health Organisation (which devised and oversees the Age Friendly Cities scheme) says that planning should take two years. Coventry is ahead of that schedule, and we think the pace will pick up in the New Year.We will of course keep you informed of further developments.
It is about a year since we first reported on this project, so here is a summary of what has happened so far:
The Social participation group has already had its first meeting, which included representatives from Coventry City Council, Whitefriars Housing, Orbit Homes, West Midlands Fire Service, Coventry and Rugby Clinical Commissioning Group, Coventry University, Age UK Coventry, CVSC (Retired and Senior Volunteer Programme), the Belgrade Theatre, and (last but not least), COV! As it was the first meeting, much of the time was taken up with organisational matters, but some practical ideas were discussed briefly. These included the provision of “walking maps”, and more seating and public toilets in the City centre. It was also agreed there were already some opportunities for social participation of which older people were often unaware, and which needed to be publicised.The Communication and Information group has also met – but too recently for a report to be available, and the Transport group will meet shortly.
COV members were invited to participate in a workshop on 12th May, at the Welcome Centre in Parkside, to look at problems and solutions in three particular areas:
Bridget Harper went along, and sent us the following report:I left home allowing plenty of time to arrive at the Welcome Centre for the start of the Workshop at 10.00am - no such luck! The scheduled bus on the route into Town failed to arrive and the next one somehow absorbed double the load slowing everyone down. The general chaos around the Belgrade Plaza development delayed me further arriving at the Centre 15 minutes late. Catching the tail end of Kam Kaur’s introduction I sneaked in like a late cinema goer after the film had started and sensed the silent disapproval of the seventy or so fellow participants.
From the research undertaken on the Age Friendly initiative so far eight main themes have been identified. This workshop event focused on the three priority areas of Transportation, Social participation and Communication and information. We moved straight into our allocated groups each with a group leader.
There was a great deal of sharing and storytelling which was in itself both interesting and energising. Although problems were highlighted we were encouraged to be positive and put forward solutions. Sometimes just a small change can have a real impact on the quality of life of older people in our communities.
It might seem that we are only beginning the journey but for many older people, like myself, history is a rich tapestry. There are many examples in our City of how in spite of adversity progress has been made, our Champion Godiva for one. However the AFC initiative is about making Coventry a better place for the present and the future both for those of us who are older now and for those who will be in the future.The Group activity generated many ideas/solutions and in reality not everything is possible immediately. The wheels of bureaucracy move slowly and there are serious budget restraints. For this to be more than just a paper exercise It is essential that decision makers, service providers, voluntary and community sectors sit round the same ‘kitchen table’. Real change comes from commitment, a willingness to listen and respect others, particularly older people themselves.
The body that oversees the Age Friendly Cities programme on behalf of the three sponsors (Coventry City Council, Coventry University and Age UK Coventry) is known as the "Ageing Well in Mind and Body Board" (AWMBB). COV has accepted the kind invitation for two of its members to join the board, to represent the views of its wider membership, and of older people in Coventry.
Participants included representatives from the business, public, voluntary and community sectors. Members of COV were invited, and contributed to lively discussions on what makes an Age Friendly City, and how Coventry can move towards becoming increasingly age friendly. Speakers included:Kam Kaur (Age Friendly Transformation Manager).
Coventry City Council are partnering with Age UK Coventry and Coventry University as part of a World Health Organisation initiative to make cities more age-friendly.
The partnership between organisations has appointed a jointly-funded Programme Officer to oversee the delivery of the project’s aims.
By becoming an Age Friendly city, Coventry will work to promote the opportunities available to improve health, participation and security as people age, thereby increasing quality of life for all residents. The Age Friendly initiative will build upon work that is already in place and on-going across the city, including the Older People’s Wellness Strategy, the Marmot Work Programme and the Dementia Strategy.
Cllr Alison Gingell, Coventry City Council Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Services, welcomed the initiative, saying:
“We already have lots of fantastic work going on throughout our city and our partner organisations, but the joint funding of a Programme Officer will enable these strands to be tied together to create a city that is officially recognised as Age Friendly. It is important that we acknowledge the impact that older people have on all of our lives, and the significant contribution that they make to our city. We need to continue our work to make our spaces more accessible, our streets safer and our communities kinder. This can only be achieved by working in partnership across the public, private and voluntary sector. I’m incredibly pleased that Age UK Coventry and Coventry University are working alongside us.”
Dr Christine Broughan from Coventry University, said:
“With the number of older people in Coventry set to rise over the next 20 years we need to stimulate radical changes in our traditional attitudes and approaches towards them. We are working closely with the City Council, Age UK Coventry and other agencies to make age friendly living a priority in the city.”Michael Vincent, Chief Executive of Age UK Coventry, said:
“Our older citizens deserve the best possible quality of life and this exciting Age Friendly City Partnership Programme is designed to help achieve this, so that we and future generations can all love later life here in Coventry.”
Follow this link for more about the Age Friendly Cities programme.