Age UK Norwich for the elderly is looking ahead to a bright future

Deputy Lord Mayor James Wright and Age UK chief executive Susan Ringwood at the 70th birthday meetin

Deputy Lord Mayor James Wright and Age UK chief executive Susan Ringwood at the 70th birthday meeting.PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: SIMON FINLAY

The emphasis was firmly on the future – as both a challenge and an opportunity – as a city charity celebrated its 70th anniversary yesterday.

Age UK Norwich, which has been supporting older people since 1945, threw the doors open to the public for its annual meeting, yesterday at the United Reformed Church, Princes Street, Norwich. with a focus on three key strategies, and a call to arms from lord mayor Brenda Arthur.

Mrs Arthur – who was taken ill, but whose speech was read by deputy lord mayor James Wright – told the audience: 'Seventy years ago, this country was very different. In 1951, for example, there were 300 people aged 100. Last year, there were 13,780, with 710 over 105. Over a third of the UK population is now 50 or over, while in 1948 it was estimated that people lived for an average of just three years after retirement.

'Age UK has seen good times and bad times, weathering the changes and looking for new ways of working – through all of this offering the very necessary advice and information service.

'All too often, we hear about problems created by an older population, but they also contribute a lot.'

Emphasising the work of older volunteers, she said in 2010, people over 65 made a positive contribution of £20bn to the UK economy. But 25pc of people over 60 were living in poverty.

'This is a problem we can't shy away from,' she added. It remains, alongside dementia and other long-term health conditions – a challenge for the future.

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Age UK Norwich's chief executive, Susan Ringwood, emphasised the contribution the charity's staff, nearly 300 volunteers and trustees make.

In a tough environment – with high spending cuts – 'we are being challenged to think about how we bring about a culture shift. There are no easy answers because it seems increasingly that the sums just don't add up.

'But it's not all bad. I think there is a glimmer of hope. Most people want to stay in their own homes as long as possible. And, in this country, 70 is the new 50. It's mid-life, not old age.

'However, as a charity what we are concerned about is those older people who do need some support to make the most of later life. We are there for them.'

Ms Ringwood said that in the last year, the charity had direct contact with 5,724 older people.

'28pc of the city's older population has turned to Age UK Norwich at some point. Many more visited out website, saw us on social media or dropped into our shop in London Street.'

Just in financial terms, the charity in the last year had helped older people claim £1,600,000 in benefits entitlements. Achieving an investment in the city of £3,200,000, the charity had been able to put back £4 for every £1 spent, she said.

Looking to the next 70 years, the charity is focusing on three key questions:

-How do we look after carers?

-How do we reach isolated, lonely people?

-How do we harness the skills of older people?

To learn more about Age UK Norwich, to seek help or to volunteer, call 01603 49633 or visit www.ageuknorwich.org.uk