On Monday, OCF hosted a celebration at The Mill Arts Centre, bringing together local people from across the business, public and charitable sectors to share progress made by the Age Friendly Banbury partnership.
Putting older people at the heart of local decision-making is the very essence of the World Health Organisation’s Age Friendly Framework, which forms the basis of the project in Banbury. The project kicked off earlier this year with OCF as a founding partner.
The most important thing the partnership aims to do is to amplify the voices of the seldom heard and isolated in our communities. Highlights from the day included a pop-up event in an empty shop at the Castle Quay shopping centre, where passers-by were encouraged to share their ideas about what they thought was was ‘pants’ (bad) or ‘tops’ (good) about Banbury, hanging paper cut-outs on a washing line.
Another opportunity was for shoppers to ‘map their say’ by identifying any particular hot spots or great spaces close by to where they lived in the town.
Music was provided by the Rusty Musicians, who were hoping to recruit many more older musicians to their weekly jam sessions at The Mill.
One of the many benefits of working in this way is that partners soon start to hear about what others are doing, and begin to see the bigger picture. This prompts them to look at things differently and consider new ways of working together that will complement rather than compete with what others are doing.
What the Age Friendly Banbury partnership has heard by listening has influenced and shaped its priorities and efforts. For example, whereas the group started out wanting to tackle loneliness using the power of food in bringing people together, we have instead uncovered more basic issues that make places such as Banbury daunting and anxiety-inducing for older people, such as lack of toilets or public seating.
People have told the partnership that there are already many activities and groups, but often it is difficult to find out about them, or they are inaccessible to those who would otherwise like to take part. Older, younger people and everyone in the middle say they would like places that bring them together to live, work and socialise, so perhaps intergenerational mixing is what makes a place truly age friendly for everyone.
OCF’s Chief Executive Jayne Woodley comments: “With so many local people already involved and determined to contribute whatever they can to help, there is now an incredible amount of momentum and trust within the partnership, with everyone playing their part to make Banbury a great place to grow older and first Age Friendly place in Oxfordshire.”
The Age Friendly Banbury partnership is particularly grateful to funding support and pledges from Banbury Charities and Brethertons LLP, as well as from Yvonne Rees, who took time out of a busy schedule and in her new role as both Chief Executive of Cherwell District Council and Oxfordshire County Council, to send the following message.