A new national organisation has been formed, enabling the voices of older people across England to be heard directly by those who create the policies, strategies and services that affect their lives.
Launched at the House of Lords on 20th March, EngAgeNet (The English Age Network) immediately embraces local groups and activists with an estimated reach of over 300,000 older people. It is based on the long-established English Regional Forums on Ageing, which were set up in the wake of the 2009 Elbourne Report.
The Forums played a key role in the UK Forum on Ageing, which provided direct input into Government departments until it had its funding removed in 2016.
English Forums on Ageing have a long track record of collaborating with local, regional and national bodies to inform decision making. The new network builds on this to provide informed individuals across the country willing to take part in surveys, focus groups and facilitated meetings – providing a direct conduit for public, private and third sector bodies.
“We believe there is a huge role to be played in the current environment,” says Marjory Broughton, Chair of EngAgeNet “Many of the big challenges currently facing society – the crisis in the care system, a shortage of suitable housing, long term concerns over pensions, flexible retirement and a host of others – directly involve older people. We want to be part of the solution, not just to be seen as the ‘problem’.
“We are in an ideal position to harness the views, ideas and experiences of older people to inform the decision making process and make that happen.
“We are non political, we are run by and for older people and our members go right across the demographic spectrum.
“Our long-term relationships with local groups, forums and affiliates allow us to function differently from any other representative body to reach those whose voices are often ignored,” Marjory Broughton says. We can access the views and input of people across society with direct experience of ageing… of all political persuasions and from diverse ethnic, religious and socio-economic groups.
“This includes ‘hard to reach’ individuals and those not online.
“Moreover, we have a long history of providing constructive input into local and national government, as well as health and third sector bodies.”
While EngAgeNet is currently built on seven English Forms on Ageing, their ambition is to expand this substantially by welcoming other groups, forums and individuals who share their aims.
As well as enabling all levels of Government and public services to fulfil their equality obligations when developing policies in areas such as health, social care, transport, employment, benefits, housing and digital inclusion, EngAgeNet will help the business community address both “ageing workforce” issues and the needs and aspirations of older consumers.
There is also an opportunity for academic and think-tank researchers to access the diverse expertise, experiences, opinions and concerns of older people.
Says Marjory Broughton: “We believe that if society is better informed about the value and contribution of older people, and more willing to draw on their experience and wisdom, there is a greater likelihood of much needed change in social policy and of a more ‘age friendly’ approach on the part of the business community.
“To achieve this, the way older people are represented and portrayed needs to be corrected – not least in some media which continue to oversimplify the issues facing an ageing society. We are committed to driving a narrative that will challenge the perception that ageing and longevity is a socio-economic problem and that people in later life are a burden on the rest of society.
“We believe EngAgeNet can contribute to a better understanding of the real implications of an ageing population in a changing society, recognising that ageing and longevity are intergenerational issues – offering opportunities as well as challenges.”
Press contact: Tony Watts 07738 167788 / firstname.lastname@example.org