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Creating hope

An older man and a younger man, smiling together

'There is always the chance to help and support people, one person at a time, street by street, town by town'

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Age UK, reflects on the importance of hope in meeting the many challenges ahead.


We’re now in a new financial year, a new school term, and there’s a hint of Spring in the air.

It’s a PaulFarmer500x500.jpgtime when many older people will feel a bit more hopeful, no doubt helped by the recent 10% rise in the State Pension – a welcome chance to get out and about, to maybe see family members, or to pick up that new volunteering opportunity.

But we can also see the cost the past six months has had, with the deepening cost of living crisis affecting older people’s ability to afford heating, food, and other basics. Or the cancellation of appointments and operations because of problems in the NHS.

Our most recent awareness campaign, Know What To Do, has attracted a lot of debate and comment. The advertisements have been hard-hitting, but they’re drawn directly from calls to the Age UK Advice Line and to The Silver Line. They’re not made up or exaggerated. In fact, if anything, they understate the daily challenges so many people are facing.

It’s easy to feel that this is a hopeless situation. Especially when you add in the problems of accessing social care, and the ever-increasing reliance on digital access, which is great for many of us, but not if you don’t have the necessary skills.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. Hope is at hand

Hope takes the form of our volunteers, working locally and nationally. In February and March, Age UK’s volunteering team managed to train a total of 46 volunteers to The Silver Line, bringing us to a total of 181 volunteers within a service that recently received its highest volume of calls for two years. The demand remains high, but more volunteers mean we can answer more calls. The Big Help Out in a couple of weeks’ time will act as a spotlight on those volunteering opportunities.

Hope also takes the form of our local Age UKs, opening and running services across the country. I was in Lambeth a couple of weeks ago meeting staff supporting people in one of the country’s most diverse boroughs with a huge diversity of need. The full impact of social care constraints and the need for benefits were particularly clear. Thanks to our terrific benefits advisors across the country, we have supported the claiming of tens of millions of pounds worth on benefits.

And in Norwich, where Age UK Norwich is working with businesses, Norwich City FC, the NHS and others to call for Norwich to be an age-friendly city.

And in Nottingham, where an innovative approach to supporting people with dementia creates a totally different environment, miles away from a traditional day centre. I was roundly beaten at snooker by Ron, who has dementia but still knows all the rules, which come back more easily to him because he feels calmer and more in control of what he can do.

Let’s be clear: there are many challenges ahead. But there is always the chance to help and support people, one person at a time, street by street, town by town.

What we can learn from Len

That sense of hope was always shown by beloved TV presenter and Age UK supporter Len Goodman, who gave much of his time to older people, as you can see in our video below. We were very sad to learn of his death. Thank you, Len, for bringing hope into so many people’s lives.

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Last updated: Apr 28 2023

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