The Age-Friendly Communities initiative, funded by Welsh Government, in Swansea, has been badged as Ageing Well. Over the past 18 months, Swansea Council’s Partnership and Involvement team has progressed their ‘Ageing Well’ initiative, where the focus is to support people aged 50+ across Swansea to live as good and as meaningful a life as possible.
As a team and working with a wide range of partners, we run many weekly community engagement sessions designed to combat loneliness and isolation. We also arrange exciting day trips which allow the people we are working with to build confidence, make new social connections and engage with community activities and projects which they may not have felt comfortable or able to do without support.
The initiative started small and simple, with a weekly walk around Swansea Marina being the first engagement session to be set up. There were very modest numbers in attendance to begin with but now, 18 months later, our Thursday walk around Swansea Marina has anywhere between 75-100 regulars turning up every week and was even featured on ITV news at the start of February! This has been achieved by using flyers to advertise the walk but mainly through word of mouth, where the people in attendance have told friends about and invited friends along to join the group.
From chatting with people during the weekly walks and over a free hot drink which is provided afterwards, staff have been able to gain knowledge on what is important to people aged 50 and over in Swansea. Using this information, more and more engagement sessions have been put in place, the large majority of which are free to access, and we are now in a position where we have something available for people aged 50 and over to attend from Monday to Friday, every week!
Our sessions are all very inclusive and we have tried to include a variety of different options for people, from a cuppa and chat to bowling and a choir! We have a good number of people attending all sessions and are regularly seeing new faces at each session too! In an interview conducted after a Thursday walk recently, which will be used in our soon to be published Ageing Well blog, the gentleman interviewed said the following:
“I like that when I walk around Swansea, people that I have met through these sessions regularly say ‘Hello’! It really gives me a sense of belonging within the city.”
The Ageing Well initiative whilst facilitated by staff, has always been led and developed in collaboration with people aged 50 and over in Swansea. We now have between 400-500 people attending our engagement sessions across any typical week, and hopefully, this will continue long into the future! We believe that talking to and listening to the people aged 50 and over who attend the engagement sessions has been a major factor in the success of the Ageing Well initiative.
As a result of regular engagement, daily sessions and working with the community to identify needs, develop services and build on ideas, rural engagement and outreach were highlighted as something to develop. As a result of this, we have sourced funding to purchase a community outreach vehicle to expand the ageing well to more rural locations.
This is an ongoing piece of work and work is currently underway to source a vehicle fit for purpose, to allow rural engagement to take place. We have also, alongside our COPA colleagues, done community outreach in the Gower and as a result have identified some key issues faced by those communities in terms of accessing services and, longer term, this will be incorporated into how we progress and develop our work here in Swansea.