The importance of community as we age

On the whole, writes Jo Volpe, Chief Executive Officer of Leeds Older People’s Forum, people want a healthy and happy later life – to have a “good innings”. And our local community groups are so vital for this as we age.

Enjoying a good later life isn’t everyone’s experience – although it’s our mission at Leeds Older People’s Forum to ensure older people have the opportunities, choices and support to live the life they want. On the whole, people want a healthy and happy later life – to have a ‘good innings’ – and our local community groups are so vital for this as we age.

In reading the Chief Medical Officer’s annual report “Health in an Ageing Society” I was struck by the positivity, and the concentration on issues which can improve our quality of life in our later years.  It’s not just about how long we live but the quality of life we experience in those years. 

Illness and disability are not inevitable and amongst the things mentioned by Professor Whitty is the role of the voluntary and community sector, which in Leeds is vast and celebrated.

In December we had visitors from Denmark, who wanted to understand more about the voluntary sector and the Neighbourhood Networks in Leeds. In Denmark, like many countries with an ageing population, they have a growing demand for health and adult social care resources, but do not have the workforce to fulfil that demand. They are looking to the community as an answer, and came to Leeds as somewhere that invests in its third sector because community based approaches are so important as we age – providing social connection, physical activities, food and day-to-day support when no-one else is there.

I also took time out to attend the International Longevity Centre’s Future of Ageing Conference, where they launched their Longevity White Paper:  One hundred years not out:  A route map for long lives.  They presented bold ideas that need to happen as we are living longer. To live a life less lonely and build connected communities their bold idea is to “Develop multi-generational hubs …. These should build on community assets like neighbourhood networks in Leeds”.

We’re so proud that Leeds, and our members, are being recognised for the importance we place on communities as we age.

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