Age Concern has a senior moment
“Old people are younger than they used to be” oxymoronic but sums up the fact that we are all living longer and healthier lives. It has long be recognised that age has nothing to do with the freedom to be yourself, age is a state of mind.
When ‘Age Concern’ and ‘Help The Aged’ merged last year, they decided to temporarily operate under the name ‘Age Concern and Help the Aged'’ giving themselves time to come up with a new inspirational name, a fresh start for the organisation.
However for legal and charitable compliance, signing contracts etc, they called the new charity “Age UK” solely for administrative purposes and were adamant it would never be the public name for the new charity.
A spokesman for the charity said " 'Age UK' would absolutely, categorically not" be the public facing name of the new charity. "I can give you a cast iron guarantee it will not be the name of the new charity."
Civil Society 13 Jan 2009
However after 8 months of consultation and deliberation including the hiring of a top branding consultancy to “create the new identity” the charity - wait for it - came up with the name of “Age UK”.
Announcing the old/new name Tom Wright, chief executive of the charity, said the name "clearly reflects who we represent and what we do”. While the branding consultancy hired to create the new identity said when they were appointed “older people’s need would be central to the branding strategy.”
There is no doubt as to the importance of a brand name, it sets you apart and we psychologically react to an easily recognisable brand. Ideally it should have a feel good factor about it and of course be in tune with its audience. But age as a determinant has long disappeared. I don’t want to be told I’m old or reminded about my age.
The new name is outdated, dull, unimaginative, ageist, patronising, counter-productive you pick the word. It does absolutely nothing to raise the profile or self esteem for older people, it conjures up carpet slippers . If “Age UK” wasn’t right 18 months ago, how does it clearly reflect the charity now?
Age Concern had been trying to drop the ‘Age’ bit for years In 2006 they launched ‘Heyday’ a subsidiary for 'younger older' people. A monumental disaster that was finally scrapped last year after the charity had blown £22 million on the project.
Sir Christopher Kelly, chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life and now sorting out MPs' expenses, said in his report into Heyday, that it was a "classic case study of what not to do if you want an organisation to succeed".
Sadly the charity suffers from a long term pre existing condition, it prescribes change for others, but has never been able to change course itself. It has always been a charity for older people not of older people. Unlike many other charities it has never appeared to have gone out of its way to employ those it represents (older people). How many people in their late 60’s or well into their 70’s does the new charity or did Age Concern England employ?
In fact it has never been that good on employing older people. A few years ago the Guardian wrote “There have been few sterner critics of age discrimination by employers than Age Concern” but in a flagrant case of ageism the charity “ turned down a well qualified applicant due to his age.” The Guardian
As Kelly pointed out it would be unfortunate if the charity lost sight of its underlying purpose influencing the causes of later poverty, ill health and isolation.
However we musn’t forget that besides all the good work that Age Concern undertakes especially at local branch level (oh, what they could have done with £22 million) the charity also represents every older person in the country, including millions who are never likely or want to become members.
The Charity is always co-opted to any and every governmental or parliamentary quango influencing decisions from digital inclusion to health and pensions for all older people. This was meant to be a fresh new start but sadly they have ended up just going round and round in the same old circles, shelling out money.