|Group discussions at the Age UK & SEEFA policy panel on later life and ageing|
Members of the older population contribute tremendously to our society in a vast number of ways. They can also however feel undervalued and forgotten as a result of negative age stereotypes.
Founder Katie has been working with SEEFA (South EastEngland Forum on Ageing) and Age UK to find positive solutions to these negative stereotypes and listen to what businesses can do in supporting this. On Monday, the group met at the stunning Royal Air Force Club in Picadilly, London to debate this further.
Katie was on the panel and talks us through the day and the key outcomes from the positive discussions.
|Outside the Royal Airforce Club|
|Inside the Royal Airforce Club|
SEEFA and Age UK have joined forces with the aim of bringing people together to influence later life strategies, policies and services in order to make life better for the current and future generations of folder people (www.seefa.org.uk). The focus of discussion was on what businesses need to be doing to support this.
I was one of three on the panel, which also included Leela Damodaran, Professor of Digital Inclusion and Participation at Loughborough University and Philippa Aldrich, from the Future Perfect Company. Contributing and driving questions were a diverse group of some thirty women and men over fifty-five, representing members of the older population.
We began hearing from the panel with Professor Damodaran talking about how we have become ‘e-everything’ highlighting the huge benefits but need to ensure this is accessible to all. With 75% of over 75’s still not online, it became clear that we must do more to get this group online. The group highlighted they would want to do this in an enjoyable and sociable way through interest based learning. It is then crucial to keep them online maintaining awareness and understanding continuing the learning process.
Philippa Aldrich gave a great presentation on the benefits of good design in business and how the Future Perfect Company aims to design an age friendly future working with students at the University of Brighton and the College of Richard Collyers, to create products and services that assist and celebrate later life.
I then introduced The Able Label and discussed the importance of listening and inclusive design from the outset. It is essential to work at design stage with healthcare professionals and those who would benefit from the clothing in order to make products as suitable as possible, which the panel agreed on. I also ran through how crucial customer service is particularly for older customers. We offer a multi-channel approach understanding our customers do shop in different ways – you can therefore buy online, by phone, by mail order or through one of our stockists making the range accessible to more. When people call for further information or to place an order, they speak to a real person! As a start up business, I also highlighted some of the challenges faced including overcoming the stigma associated with anything adaptive, reaching the right people to spread the word and the high costs involved in setting up.
The three presentations, then drew out some key areas for further discussion. The key things they wanted from businesses included:
· The ability to exercise choice to feel less disadvantaged.
· Good design quoting ‘down with drab’ and ‘no more beige’.
· Better availability through mainstream retailers where they would shop anyway.
· Good customer service wanting to speak to real people, have staff who know the product well enough to help find items for their specific needs and have a culture of respect with staff happy to help. John Lewis was highlighted as being strong for this.
· No more ageist adverts like last years John Lewis Christmas advert and the Spec Savers advert that generalise older people.
· Lifelong education being supported as products and services evolve and change.
There will be follow up discussions homing in on key areas before the group present suggestions for improvement to a symposium at the House of Lords next year.
We will keep you posted!