Ageing in an Inclusive Society – Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) Seminar 07/09/16

At Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN), we are committed to improving the lives of older people living in the UK that was the driving motivation for hosting our first ever “Ageing in an Inclusive Society” seminar on 7th September 2016. We brought together academics, carers, practitioners and members of the general public to learn more about the challenges facing older people and how we can better work together to ensure all older people are able to fully participate in society.

The day was opened by Mark Wiggin, CEO of Caritas Salford and Chair of our Older People Services forum speaking about the current work of our members aimed at tackling social isolation. For example, Caritas Salford operates a befriending and support services in Northern Manchester for those who are lonely or socially isolated.

Gloria Oham from the Catholic Association of Racial Justice (CARJ), presented on the needs of BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) older people. There is research to suggest that belonging to certain ethnic groups can increase an individual’s likelihood of experiencing social isolation.  There are some organisations which focus on BAME elderly individuals’ needs such as Watford African Caribbean Association and Camden Chinese Community Centre. It was highlighted the importance of encouraging the involvement of family and friends. The solutions put forth included utilising health services e.g. hospitals and GPs to raise awareness of local services and empowering local community members to look out for the frail and vulnerable.

The Link Visiting scheme provides a range of services including befriending, activities and parties to support older people. Jeremy Sharpe, Director of The Link Visiting Scheme passionately spoke about their commitment to working with many people and organisations to achieve their aim to combat social isolation among older people. Their future plans include reaching and supporting 2,000 older people and targeting areas with higher risk of loneliness.

Edward De Quay, Caritas Westminster spoke about the number of social action projects that are run by or associated with parishes in the Diocese of Westminster. Currently, there are 110 social projects for elderly people. Caritas Westminster work closely with the national charity, Contact the Elderly through monthly tea parties run by volunteers. You’re able to find what projects are taking place in your area here – http://rcdow.org.uk/caritas/social-action-initiatives/

Liz Sheehy, Welcome me as I am, tackled the sensitive topic of advance care planning, touching on the powers of the Mental Health Capacity Act which, enables individuals to make advance decisions to refuse treatment and allow individuals to make a statement of wishes and feelings.

Alison Ward, Researcher at Northampton University, visited Denmark to find out about creative activities and services which are being delivered to support people with dementia. She spent four weeks at VUK (Voksenskolen for Undervisning og Kommunikation), a school for adult education providing cognitive training and creative lessons for people with dementia. There were treated as students rather than patients and the students were regularly asked to complete challenging tasks with the appropriate support.

The tensions between care homes and health services were discussed by Professor Claire Goodman, University of Hertfordshire. In England, there are three times more care home than hospital beds. Approximately 10% of care homes receive NHS funding and care home homes reliant on public funding are at risk.

All too often conferences and seminars are too much talk with no action, as a result, we concluded the day with an action planning session. Delegates were asked to share what they had learnt throughout the day and one action they would commit to with this new found knowledge.

To find out more about the event, use our hashtag #CSANseminar16

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