Chris Walsh - our Chief Exec is the elected chair of Age Platform Europe ( UK section) - Here is his report on the annual conference of the leading 50+ network in Europe:
REPORT ON AGE PLATFORM EUROPE ANNUAL MEETING by Chris Walsh
- The annual general meeting of Age Platform Europe (the biggest over 50s network in Europe), was held in Brussels on 12 – 14 June. There were nearly 100 delegates, staff and speakers.
- The key points that arose were that age platform is now running a number of successful projects, research programmes and campaigns.
- These include the Age Barometer – which outlines how each country and government is progressing on addressing the main elements of our ageist society and economy. We need to ensure that we research and write up how the UK govt and society and economy is supporting older people or not and to submit our findings both as individual organisations and as an Age Platform UK combined response
- The age friendly environments initiative which uses the World Health Organisation template to research and make proposals round the 8 domains or themes that address the key issues affecting older people. This is now a major intentional programme and works best only if older people are actively involved in the process. We need to keep being involved in providing our expertise to help make this a reality and to ensure we support Pail and other organisations working around Age Friendly Environments to facilitate older people are the leaders and co-producers of the recommendations, Action plans and policies that will make up London’s strategic approach to becoming age friendly. The next conference to help make this happen will be at City Hall on 1 November. People with whom I am in contact at Age Platform are available to offer examples of best practice and hopefully we can be included in future partnerships and conferences around this topic. I made contact with Julia Waddoux who is Age Platform lead and Laura Christ who is the Netherlands leading expert on age friendly environments who are happy to maintain contact and help.
- There was also a Manifesto on Ageing that was sent to many European Parliament prospective candidates and parties. This manifesto can be used and amended to be sent to British Parliamentarians to raise issues of concern to older people. It is recommended that we try to build contacts and connections with MEPs, members of the House of Commons and Lords and key people at the Mayor of London’s offices and in London boroughs to see whether we can educate and enthuse them to support these age friendly initiatives and campaigns
- There was a long discussion around their campaign to bring about a UN Charter of Human Rights for Older People as it has proved to be a useful mechanism to address discrimination and exclusion of people with disabilities and should be a helpful element to our wider campaign to overcome ageism and to make Europe age friendly over the next decade. We can play a role in supporting this campaign. I met with Emily McClarron from Age UK and Elizabeth Sclater representing the European Older Women’s network
- There were also issues raised around future membership by members from different countries and the issue of what membership will be available. There is a shortfall in income from member fees which will rise if Brexit takes place and if Age refuses to allow UK members full membership rights.
- We in the UK have argued that if there is a deal then UK membership should remain the same, just as other affiliated members from countries such as Switzerland, Norway are able to join as full members.
- This doubt over our future rights makes it very difficult to recruit new UK members at present
- These issues were raised by myself in my capacity s as chair of Age Platform (UK) at the meeting which was well received and we obtained support for the agreement that unless we left without any deal at all then we would continue as full members with full rights as either an ongoing member of the EU or with a deal making us a partner with the EU in a similar position ( though with different terms) to other partner countries such as Switzerland, Norway and Iceland. If we do have a no deal Brexit it was agreed that Age Platform would wait until it was ratified and if necessary, wait on a General Election or 2nd Referendum before we left full membership. Both the Secretary General of Age and the Chair of the Exec contacted me to assure me of their continued commitment to working in partnership with all UK members
- There was a motion for members to put forward additional funding to cover the possible costs of Brexit leading to the loss of UK members, which was narrowly defeated and which therefore strengthens our had as they now have no way of covering the costs of UK members leaving
- I suggested that Age Platform consider making the members section much more attractive by having more info on research, projects, partnerships and campaigns advertised as being available only to members, as it transpires from my meeting with the British Institute of Gerontology that Universities who should be members are accessing nearly all the info they need without joining and paying membership dues
- Key links to find out about projects and campaigns being run by Age Platform can be found on their website https://www.age-platform.eu/
- On the final day there was a very interesting discussion around campaigning and how best to do it, so that the excellent policy and research work being done and the campaigns are better taken up by governments, employers, the media and older people themselves. It was pointed out that the reason that the UN Declaration of human Rights for those with disabilities happened because they actively campaigned with media releases, research, demands for changes to policy and legislation plus direct action ( by groups like the Belgian ‘ Gang of Angry Seniors and a Swedish group entitled Angry Older Women ( or witches) which led to these progressive changes being made. It was noted by me that we need to combine different forms of resistance and education and that without a mass mobilisation of older people there would be little change but that the impact of being actively engaged in campaigns and struggles for a better life for older people also increases the likelihood that people will feel more empowered, less socially isolated and thus less reactionary
- People we have relations with and with whom I made contact include – members in Italy ( including ADTAL40+ who are past partners), France ( including past partners and the international age and gender expert who spoke at one of our joint conference with Pail), Spain( including past partners), Netherlands- particularly Laura Christ who is a lead partner in a network around age friendly environments), Sweden ( whose rep made common cause with myself over emphasising the double discrimination faced by immigrants and refugees who are 50+), Scandinavian network, Finland and Denmark, plus Germany, Portugal, Austria, Cyprus, Croatia and Malta.
- I had a long discussion with reps from Greece, and I agreed our membership as a partner with them in a bid they are making to Horizon to carry out research into how best to attract the grey pound or silver economy tourists and visitors for Greece, with particular emphasis on UK travellers. I also discussed how we maybe able to partner them in a network bid around Introducing IT, internet and communication skills to older people with whom I am in contact.
- I also sent out an email to all 80+ attendees at the conference thanking them for their support for us over Brexit, our commitment to working in best practice networks and partnerships and asking that they all consider us as potential partners in future bids and programmes.
- I will also circulate a report on the conference by the rep from the Civil Service Pensioners Association.
Chief Exec – Wise Age
Chair Age Platform Europe ( UK section)