It has been a long journey getting into AGE – as the membership historically was blocked at national level. This has been particularly true in the UK where Age Concern (partnered by Help the Aged) had an effected monopoly on members and excluded new applicant organisations. Now that we have been voted in as full members of AGE-Platform Europe, we are now able to be members of the UK branch of AGE.
I was welcomed by the Age UK representative (Age UK is the amalgamation of the old Age Concern and Help the Aged) and was pleased to be asked to attend the UK AGE meeting in October.
There is a need to democratise the national AGE networks, and we hope to help the UK open and welcoming to organisations involved in battling ageism across the UK, bringing with us our marketing expertise and commitment to democracy.
There is also a need to widen the participation of organisations in Age Projects and expert groups. There is currently only one representative per country in each group and we hope to push for specialists and experts in these areas to represent the UK at an EU level. We hope that we be able to join the expert group unemployment given our lead in roll in developing employment support for older working people.
It was exciting an simulating to be apart of the only main EU network representing older people and as a result we hope to both promote the work of AGE there projects, research and campaigns in the UK and hope AGE will be promoting our campaigns and best practise in employment and training to there 150+ member organisations spread across the whole of the EU.
Some comments on the make up of the conference:
1. There were only 2 non-white people attending the conference of nearly 150 people.
2. Despite the fact two-thirds of people over the age of 65 are women across the EU, only around 40% of the conference attendance were in fact women.
3. The vast majority of organisations who are members of AGE are made up of and represent the interests of pensioners. However, my plea for greater representation and emphasis on the needs of the older working age population (50-65+) were well received and I was able to network with other organisations across the EU who also focus on proving support to older working age people.
There were many calls/mine amongst them/ for there to be greater support in overcoming the high numbers and percentage of older working age people out of work. While there are considerable discrepancies in the situation facing older people in different EU countries, there was general agreement that older people are often excluded from the lists of the formally unemployed which has distorted the statistics on age and non-employment. This means that older people do not get there full unemployment entitlement and that older people non-employment is not regarded as a priority for government intervention and financial support. We hope to have both UK and EU campaign to start overcoming this problem.
The AGE membership there was a general feeling of outrage and the situation and treatment of older people and great worries were expressed about the impact of the coming economic criticise at the numbers of older people who were likely to face redundancy and consequent poverty.
Some of the individuals that I met who were both interested and impressive included representatives that were from – Malta, Finland, Holland, Sweden, Hungary, Cyprus, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, France, Italy and Ireland.
I’ll keep you updated on activities that arise from our membership of AGE and promote some of the key facts, research and campaign information coming out of Age-Platform Europe. Anyone wanting more information contact me by e-mail.