Celebrating age in later life

Everybody knows that public services are changing and that change is being driven by a number of different things.

Government spending is being cut, there is less money to go around and the message from Westminster is that we have all to got tighten our belts. But demand is also up, particularly in Norfolk.

More and more of us are living longer, and that brings its own pressures on services and costs.

Our expectations are also changing. Many consumers are no longer willing to simply accept what they are given. And just because people are getting older, that doesn't mean they want to give up the things they like, such as going out to meet friends or taking up a new hobby.

Governments have tried to reflect this with a shift towards personalisation. Out goes block-funded day services, and in comes the pick and choose approach, where you can find activities to suit your own interests and hobbies, from walking groups, to arts classes.

For Age UK Norfolk, that is where Project Transform comes in.

In the next three years the charity wants to change the way it provides its services and advice.

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Providing advocacy and support will still be key – but this will be on hand at the community hubs, and the idea is also to offer more activities in more rural areas. That might mean you pop in to go to club or activity and as you pass through you might be able to find out about other things such as whether you are claiming the right benefits. It could mean receiving a new kind of help if you are at home but need a hand to pop out and meet your friends, or go shopping. And the charity hopes a new telephone system will give people a more direct way of getting in touch, replacing the existing 0800 numbers with a direct dial local number, which can put you straight through to someone. But it all takes money, which is the one the charity is also seeking the support of businesses and other individuals.

Kate Rudkin, head of development operations at Age UK Norfolk, said the project was about changing both the organisation and the services.

'It's really exciting, and best thing about it is putting people control and providing what they want, rather than what we think they might need,' she said. 'We are also planning to develop a personal assistant agency where there will be trained people who can support you if you want to go shopping. Not everyone wants to have a frozen meal, and in the same way they can support you if you want to meet your friend for lunch, or go to the cinema or caf�, and all those sorts of activities we think are quite normal... This would be a far more personalised way of offering care and support.'