Issue 42

August 2012

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STRAY NEWS

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Launch of Harrogate District Older Peoples Forum

A Forum for Older people in the Harrogate District was launched at the Cedar Court Hotel on the 17th July.  Over 40 older people came along and met members of the North Yorkshire Forum for Older People and members of other local Forums in North Yorkshire and talked about what they would like from their local forum.


This is good news for older people over 50 in the Harrogate District as there hasn’t been one single organisation which represents older people in our area.  It is not always easy for older people to raise issues or influence how decisions are made. The last time older people were represented in the Harrogate District was through the Better Government for Older People group.


Forums are independent, run by older people for older people and give members a chance to have their say.  Forums can influence decision makers on matters that are important to every day lives and campaign on issues that members feel strongly about.  They also keep people up to date with what is happening in their local area and offer an opportunity to socialise.  There are Forums across the country and there are several Forums in other parts of North Yorkshire.


The North Yorkshire Forum for Older People has provided funding to Harrogate and Area CVS to set up and support a Harrogate District Forum for Older People.

This new Forum offers an opportunity for older people themselves to come together, identify and discuss issues of mutual concern feed them through to decision makers and advocate for action.  There is a representative structure that the Forum can feed into; through the Older People’s Partnership Board and the North Yorkshire Forum for Older People, the Yorkshire and Humber Forum on Ageing and up to government through the UK Advisory Forum on Ageing.  There is an Older Peoples Champion at both District and County level.


Before we got going we decided to carry out a consultation to ask older people themselves whether there was a need for a representative group and what form it should take.  With the help of lots of organisations and individuals the consultation had wide coverage and a number of barriers and issues were identified.


The first will be no surprise to readers of Stray news – the definition of older people.  Many people who responded said that they did not define themselves by their age. People in their 50’s and 60’s do not necessarily define themselves as an older person.  People struggled to see that that the involvement of older people in local and national decision making about health and well-being in it’s widest sense affected them, or indeed issues about aging well and improving service for older people.  This is an issue which links cultural and societal and economic beliefs which can translate into stereotyping and discrimination.  

Many people who said they weren’t interested didn’t believe that they would be listened to.  Their life experience had given them no evidence that their voice mattered. Many older people, particularly women, said that they wouldn’t feel confident to speak up in a meeting.


Some respondents said they needed transport to get to a meeting or help with cost of travel.  Carers said they would need someone to cover whilst they attend a meeting.  People with support needs would require someone to support them whilst at the meeting.


Not surprisingly many older people who were interested are already active in their local community, helping out friends and neighbours, Tenants and residents Associations and Church groups.


A few respondents highlighted increasing awareness about intergenerational issues and improve understanding about decisions that are made to assist different groups. Opportunities to share skills with other groups may present themselves and this would promote better understanding across generations.


The work that has gone into setting up the Forum is largely down to four individual older people who have worked very hard within their own communities to engage people – Rose & Trevor Stearn, Christine Dobson and Brenda Dixon, supported by Harrogate & Area CVS.  Trevor and Brenda currently represent Harrogate District on the Older People’s Partnership Board.  The Forum will be looking for volunteers to represent it on the North Yorkshire Forum for Older People.


If you are interested in coming along to the next meeting please contact Christine Boxall at Harrogate & Area CVS on 01423 813 094 or email