New charity chief executive says needs of older people are changing

Dan Skipper, chief executive at Age UK Norwich. Photo: Age UK Norwich

Dan Skipper, chief executive at Age UK Norwich. Photo: Age UK Norwich - Credit: Age UK Norwich

The new boss of a city-based charity has put out a call for more volunteers and new partnerships to support the elderly.

Dan Skipper, chief executive at Age UK Norwich. Photo: Age UK Norwich

Dan Skipper, chief executive at Age UK Norwich. Photo: Age UK Norwich - Credit: Age UK Norwich

Dan Skipper, from Reepham, has taken over as chief executive of Age UK Norwich after three years as the charity's chief operating officer and deputy chief executive.

He said: 'I think we are in changing times for older people. Those entering their 50s and early 60s now face different issues than in the past. They may be still working or semi-retired. They are often more active and perhaps have high expectations of what they want to do in retirement.

'At the same time, some of these are people who are often caring for their own parents, as well as looking after grandchildren. So we as an organisation have to change to support this emerging group.'

Mr Skipper said that means a mix of the old and the new with tested and popular services continuing, while the charity reaches out in fresh ways.

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'Many people come to us - especially to our information and advice service - because they are facing a crisis,' he said. 'We help them deal with debt or housing issues, for example. We offer skilled guidance in applying for benefits and allowances they you are entitled to. All of that short-term support will continue, along with our focus on prevention, such as loneliness, which is a serious issue in Norwich.

'But increasingly, we want to work with others - whether in business or in the community.

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'For example, rather than us just moving into an area and setting up a weekly activity, we have over the last three years been working closely with existing local communities, to help them offer more to older people, and meet local demand.

'That is not just more sustainable. It also means older people are developing real social networks in their own area.'

That work has gained support from the Big Lottery fund since 2015.

Mr Skipper said the other form of key partnership is with business.

He said: 'Charity funding is under huge pressure, right across the country, and we have developed some important relationships - such as with ReAssure, the life assurance company based at Aviva. The enthusiastic support of their staff has not only raised more than £10,000 for us, in the last year, but offered opportunities for team building and a bit of fun, as ReAssure workers have joined us in street collections, or helped to redecorate our day centre at Marion Road. Their staff have also shared how this has opened their eyes to different things, such as dementia.

'These relationships can work for everyone, and we are very grateful for the support.

'Another way of staying active, or course, is making a contribution in the community.

'Many of our 160 very loyal volunteers are older people themselves… and their skills help us develop as an organisation. We can help give people skills and opportunity to get involved.

'I think in terms of recruiting volunteers or gaining funding support, the message is that we have developed a good knowledge of what needs to be done for older people in the city - but we need help to do more of it.'

Mr Skipper has, for the last two years, also been the charity's lead for development of the Norwich City Dementia Action Alliance, launched in 2017 to bring businesses - including this newspaper - and other organisations together to make Norwich a dementia friendly city.

The DAA now has 77 members, and will make its second anniversary in January.

Mr Skipper was elected its new chairman last week.

The charity's former chief executive, Susan Ringwood, left in July after heading the organisation for three years.

Mr Skipper added: 'I would like to thank her for her contribution, Susan made considerable changes, and helped raise our profile.'

Mr Skipper, who grew up in Costessey, is a keen runner, snooker player and enjoys local history.

He added: 'I am very honoured to become chief executive of such a wonderful charity, with 70 years of history helping older people in the city and it's suburbs. Our support is as relevant as it was when we started. Times and needs change, but the continuing growth of the aging population means Age UK Norwich is needed now more than ever.'

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