Diana Findley: Age-friendly champion
Diana Findley, Chairperson of the Scottish Older People's Assembly, gives some insight into her involvement with the Assembly and how she has helped her community become more age-friendly.
To celebrate International Day of Older Persons, we asked members of the UK Network of Age-friendly Communities to help us share the stories of their local heroes. This is Diana's.
What does ‘age-friendly’ mean to you?
‘Age friendly’ – to me this should apply to all ages, young through to old. However, my particular interest is older people.They must have a Voice. The Scottish Older People's Assembly (SOPA) is about improving the quality of life for older people, especially for those who are in poverty, frail or have long-term conditions. We recognise them as tax-paying citizens who contribute to the national economy and who should have professional services without being exploited.
When and how did you get involved with SOPA?
I have been a member of SOPA from the beginning as a Trustee. I also represent Age Scotland on SOPA as I am an Age Scotland Regional Ambassador for the Borders.
I started as a member of ‘Better Government for Older People’, a Westminster government project, all the way back in 1999-2000. There were 28 pilot areas in the UK – with three in Scotland, Stirling, South Lanarkshire and the Borders, where I live.
Why did you want to get involved?
As an older person, I was interested in being involved and helping to give my own age-group a voice and to help to make things better in a wide range of areas for those who are most vulnerable.
What are your proudest achievements in SOPA?
- Since 2009, delivering nine National Assemblies of older people to promote their voice and concerns to government ministers and officials.
- Campaigning in over 60 Scottish towns during 2013-16 to gather the views of older people. I was nominated for an award for campaigning on older peoples' issues by the Herald Newspaper in 2014.
- Delivered a Vote of ‘No Confidence’ in the Care Inspectorate during our National Assembly in 2012. New standards for Health & Social Care developed and launched in April 2018.
- Delivered a parliamentary reception in Westminster with the Northern Ireland Pensioners Parliament in 2015. We also delivered a parliamentary reception sponsored by Mhairi Black MP in 2016.
- As a result of SOPA's campaign to highlight funeral poverty, Alex Neil MSP – Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Justice and Pensions' Rights – announced the review of funeral poverty at our 2015 Assembly in the Scottish Parliament.
- Delivered the 2018 Assembly in the Scottish Parliament with members of the Children's Parliament and Scottish Youth Parliament.
Growing older should be celebrated not something to be dreaded.
What have been the main challenges?
I suppose funding has been a challenge. Of course, that is the cry from most charities and other organisations, so perhaps we can take some credit for what we have achieved despite having to be careful with the funding we have acquired.
We have a strong membership of people who all represent their different groups and organisations. By working together in partnership we have been able to bring the concerns and suggestions for improvement from our older people to the attention of Government. Hopefully this helps Government in their decision-making to improve the lives of older people.
What advice would you give to people in other communities trying to make them more age-friendly?
Change requires effort, so become involved and add your voice to others. Being passive accomplishes nothing – you have to step up!
What is your vision for age-friendly in Scotland?
We need to work towards all older people being able to live in appropriate homes that are warm and able to eat well without beggaring themselves as this prevents ill-health and gives a sense of security and wellbeing.
Being able to meet with friends and join in activities of their choice would avoid loneliness and isolation which can lead to mental health problems which of course costs the NHS – prevention is always better than cure!
In the rural areas, transport is a problem and therefore we need to think cleverly to avoid lonely, not well-off people to get out and about and engage with their communities.