Agenda For Later Life Conference 2011
"Don't Blame me for the Age of the Panel"
“Don’t blame me for the (young) age of the panel” was broadcaster John Stapleton’s response to a delegate who questioned the age of the panel Stapleton chaired at the opening session of Age UK’s 2011 “Agenda For Later Life” conference.
Brian Warwick co chair of Age Equality South West and vice chair of the South West Seniors Network had asked, “How can a panel whose average age is well below 50 expect to speak with authority and answer questions around ageism in the work place.”
Mohamed Khan Lodi president of Lambeth Older Persons Forum and vice chair of Lambeth Link followed along similar lines when he suggested to the panel "that older people should be employed in all government departments including local government as well as Age UK because younger people often don’t understand only imagine older peoples needs."
Later I asked Brian Warwick and Mohamed Khan Lodi what prompted their questions. Brian said “ I was simply shocked that a major organisation such as Age UK which constantly speaks out to combat ageist prejudices, should open its conference without an older person on the panel. I felt they dismally fell down at the first fence in their endeavours in overcoming attitudes towards ageing and people in later life. Hopefully, Age UK will in future set an example to eliminate ageism in their own recruiting policies and the format of their conferences.”
While Mohamed Khan Lodi told me "that older people best understand the needs and expectation for the years ahead. What better than a person who has gone through the process, unfortunately the dignity of older people is continually being undermined as they are only offered menial roles if anything."
Brian and Mohamed's views were well supported by other older delegates at the conference. Arnold Woolley told me that "In some 8 years of involvement, he often had cause to sit, in committees, at seminars and conferences and assorted AGMs and often recalled Help The Aged's aspirational slogan ‘Nothing Decided About Us Without Us’."
In 2004 Arnold aged 65, became a county councillor and in 2008 leader of Flintshire County Council a position he still holds. He is also Chair of the Over 50’s County Forum in Flintshire and deputy speaker for Older People and Ageing for the Welsh Local Government Association.
He went onto say "I have a personal concern that the voice of Older People has not yet fully found its way into the corridors of power and on to the seats of decision-making. As Older People, we do not want the many decisions that affect our lives to be made by people, no matter how well meaning or professionally qualified, who have had no experience of being an Older Person.
Somehow, we need to get across to those at the top, that where decisions that affect Older People are concerned, those decisions are not made by people dozens, or scores of years short of being an Older Person.”