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Our history

The new organisation we created in April 2009 brings together almost 120 years of shared history of working with and for older people.


World War II brought hardship to everyone in Britain, and older people were especially vulnerable. Many families had lost their main breadwinner, or become separated. There was no welfare state and the 'poor law' provision of the time was woefully inadequate.

In 1940 a group of individuals, governmental and voluntary organisations came together to discuss how this situation could be improved. The Old People's Welfare Committee was born.

The committee soon gained national recognition and in 1944 it became known as the National Old People's Welfare Committee (NOPWC), taking under its umbrella many local organisations working to improve older people’s welfare.


With the advent of the welfare state, government money became available to fund work with older people. The NOPWC co-ordinated and facilitated the work of an increasing number of committees.


Meanwhile, the Help the Aged Refugees Appeal was set up in 1961 by businessman Cecil Jackson-Cole in response to the needs of older refugees in response to the needs of older people following natural disasters and conflict in the former Yugoslavia, former East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and Rwanda. The appeal raised £105,302 in its first year.

The new organisation, renamed Help the Aged, continued to raise money for emergency aid overseas. It also became involved with projects for older people in the UK, establishing day centres and pioneering the building of better housing for older people.

In 1963 it opened its first permanent gift shop in Bexhill, East Sussex.


In 1971 the NOPWC became completely independent of government, and was renamed Age Concern. Many local groups took on the Age Concern name as time went on, and together they benefited from a unified image and a name reflecting the fact that they were not just committees but active providers of direct services.

Yours, the first national monthly newsletter for older people, was published by Help the Aged in 1973.

Meanwhile, Age Concern published the first report on the situation of older people from ethnic minority groups and began to develop services for these groups.

Help the Aged continued to develop successful fundraising and awareness-raising initiatives, including Adopt a Granny and Gifted Housing. A national minibus scheme resulted in 12 specially-adapted vehicles being donated to community groups.

In 1977 Help the Aged (Trading) Ltd was launched to raise funds through commercial activities.


In a period of high unemployment, Age Concern became a national agent for job-creation and training schemes run by local groups, and drew attention to the plight of older people suffering from long-term unemployment or redundancy.

HelpAge International was founded in 1983 by organisations including Help the Aged. It created a worldwide network of organisations working to improve older people's lives.

1984 saw the opening of the first high street Help the Aged shop selling secondhand goods. The charity continued to fundraise through national appeals, including a major appeal to launch the SeniorLink personal alarm service.


During this decade of social, political and financial change, Age Concern and Help the Aged continued to provide essential services to older people and to prepare for the challenges of the new century.

Help the Aged launched a free telephone advice line, SeniorLine, and the HandyVan home safety and security service. The Heating or Eating appeal raised over £1 million in 1998, and led to the Government's decision to make winter fuel payments to older people.

Both charities went online, launching websites that provided a range of information and support for older people.

2000 - present

In July 2000, organisations sharing the name Age Concern came together to work in a federation: a structure which reflected their independence and autonomy but also their interdependence. Age Concern England, as the national federation member, worked alongside local Age Concerns and provided support and leadership in areas like campaigning and policy.

In 2001, Help the Aged merged with Research into Ageing. The charity continued to build on its research and policy work, and in 2005 it took a new strategic direction, shifting its focus to disadvantaged older people.

Help the Aged achieved great success with its campaigns: 27,000 people pledged support for the campaign against elder abuse and the Just Equal Treatment campaign led to a government promise to end age discrimination.

In 2006, Help the Aged launched Cows 'n' Things, an ethical gift range sold in support of the charity's work overseas. In 2007, it launched intune, a company specialising in financial products for the over-50s, and engage, a business network helping companies to become age-positive.

On 1 April 2009, Age Concern England and Help the Aged joined together to create a new charity dedicated to improving later life for everyone.

In April 2010, we officially became Age UK and - in 2012 - set up a separate sister charity, Age International, to take our international work forward.

For more information call the Age UK Advice Line on 0800 169 65 65 (8am-7pm, 365 days a year).  

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Last updated: Sep 20 2022

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