Giving a Voice to Older People

‘Old biddy,’ ‘old codger:’ how often do you hear insulting terms like this applied to older people ? Insulting words applied to black or Jewish people would rightly be completely unacceptable. But ‘jokes’ and dismissive language are all too widely accepted when their target is older people.

These are the kind of attitudes that lead to dehumanising older people, ignoring their wishes and views and in the most extreme cases, shocking instances of abuse, physical, financial and emotional.

City & Hackney Older People’s Reference Group is the largest older people’s group in the area and for sixteen years has been raising a collective voice for older people to assert their dignity and resist ageism.

That is why ten years ago the OPRG consulted its members and drew up a Dignity Code, which was endorsed by the Mayor and his cabinet, the Homerton Hospital, the East London Foundation Trust and what was then the Primary Care Trust – now replaced by the Clinical Commissioning Group, whose Chair signed the Code in 2013. It’s not rocket science – more a prompt to good behaviour that should be expected anyway, but is not always forthcoming. An OPRG delegation now visits the hospital every year on Dignity Day and the Code appears in annexes to the Council’s contracts.

Any local resident over 50 can join the OPRG. We hold regular large open meetings on important issues for older people with senior policy makers and managers, giving an opportunity for them to explain what they are doing on our behalf and for our members to quiz them on what does not work well in services from their own experience. Recent topics have included: ‘Caring for our Carers,’ GP services and housing options for older people. Once a year we hold a larger event in a local school, with lots of workshops, stalls and opportunities to share experiences.

We are often asked our views on the future of services and organise focus groups and field representatives for procurement panels, to make sure the perspectives of older people are included in any decision affecting us. The work of the Group is led by an Advisory Group composed of members who wish to be a bit more engaged and perhaps represent older people in some area of life.

The OPRG is also proud of its leading role within the Connect Hackney programme. Working in partnership with Hackney CVS, we have worked hard to develop an older-people-led programme to improve the lives of older Hackney residents.  This £5.8 million programme, funded generously by the Big Lottery Fund, is chaired by our very own OPRG member, Shirley Murgraff, and has five other OPRG representatives who sit on the Connect Hackney Steering Group.

With a cross-sector partnership of voluntary and community groups, health and social care services and the local authority, Connect Hackney aims to reach 15,000 older Hackney residents over the next six years.   The OPRG will be working closely with this partnership to ensure Connect Hackney is reaching those most vulnerable and working to prevent and reduce social isolation.  Alongside this work, we will continue to campaign for older people to have a greater say in local and national issues, as well as celebrate the incredible contribution older people make to our society.

For more info please visit the Connect Hackney website

If you would like to join the OPRG, please contact Odette at Age UK East London on 020 89817124 or odette.messiah@ageukeastlondon.org.uk