Change that leads to better lives

Blog: Reflections on a hectic 18 months

Paul Gutherson, our lead for ageing and older people, reflects on some of the challenges and outcomes of the past 18 months before moving on to a new role.

In the autumn of 2021 I wrote a blog sharing my thoughts on what I hoped to achieve in my role as the Development Lead for Ageing and Older People at NDTi. As I prepare to move on to a new role leading the Lincolnshire Voluntary Engagement Team, I thought it made sense to look back at that post and reflect on the progress we have made, what still needs to be done and what, if any, new challenges have risen to the surface.

The theme for International Day of Older Persons in 2021 was Digital Equality. The role of digital delivery in delivering health and social care and in overcoming the challenges facing communities, local authorities and Integrated Care Partnerships is exciting. Though as members of the Older People’s Sounding Board, which we have hosted for NHS England over the past year, have pointed out, we must guard against digital health solutions exacerbating health inequalities. An interesting idea for equitable access to broadband or data that came from the sounding board is the idea that Integrated Care Boards might negotiate special packages for those who need digital connectivity to support access to health, care and wellbeing services.

This is not the only interesting suggestion that has come from the sounding board. One of my goals was to listen and better understand issues that matter to older people and to work with others to see what can be done to shift mindsets and practice. The knowledge, experience and insight that the sounding board have brought to our conversations have been so thought provoking and very future focused. They see a need for a big national conversation on what we all want from health and social care and they really want to see a focus on the whole person – genuine person-centred practice that utilises the assets that exist in the wider community. Something which we are seeing is increased interest in across many organisations. Sadly, too many conversations in the media and amongst policy makers still focus on services and money.

Paul Gutherson quote from blog
Paul Gutherson quote from blog.

Some emerging challenges that have come to the fore over the past 18 months relate to the financial wellbeing of older people, including employment and pensions. Not only have we tried to shine a light on these issues ourselves we, alongside EngAGEnet, have joined with other organisations to revive the Age Action Alliance so that there is a stronger voice for older people. We have also tried to make the links between financial wellbeing and wider wellbeing visible.

It has also been interesting to build new relationships and partnerships, not least those that cross generations. The similarities in experiences for people of all ages who are denied access to support they are entitled to is remarkable and I have a great hope that initial work done this year bringing together the Youth Forum and the sounding board could grow into a powerful space for disruptive thinking.

Other issues that we have worked on, that undoubtedly need more effort include the realities of ageing in rural communities, ageing without children and the specific challenges of ageing with autism. I am sure that NDTi’s interest in these areas will continue. And I still believe (as I wrote in 2021) that this is an exciting time, a time to innovate, to rethink together. To build ways of doing things that celebrate the gifts that we all have and to enable everyone to be included in the communities they live in.

There are of course things that haven’t come off, for example, an amazing partnership bid to build a network of research trained ‘age activists’ or some that are just beginning to build to a point where exciting things might happen, for example some research into commissioner and providers views on how to widen the options for social care.

All in all, it has been an absolute joy to work with a wide range of people including colleagues, practitioners and staff, families, carers and researchers over the past 18 months exploring and developing:

  • All age inclusion strategies,
  • visions for inclusive community opportunities, and perhaps most importantly
  • creating spaces for people to come together and think about what can be done to make sure we can all live our lives well.

News Sign-up

Subscribe to NDTi News

Thank you for taking the time to subscribe.