Age UK is a registered charity that helps the country’s senior citizens. As the UK’s largest charity for older people, it was officially launched on 1st April 2009, although its origins date back to World War II – it was formed from the merger of two existing charities.
The aim of Age UK is to increase the quality of life for older people by enhancing services and the vital support available to them. The charity and its partner organisations, such as the Health and Wellbeing Alliance and the Fit as a Fiddle national programme, deliver a range of services across the nation.
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Age Concern and Help the Aged merged to form Age UK. Age Concern’s origins dated back to the Second World War, when it was realised that conscription was breaking down family life and leaving many older people without a support network. The Old People’s Welfare Committee was formed in 1940 as a result.
It became the National Old People’s Welfare Committee in 1944 and co-ordinated the activities of the numerous local OPWCs. In 1991, the charity changed its name to Age Concern and extended its remit to become a lobbying body, as well as one that provided services for elderly people.
Help the Aged was launched by the entrepreneur and humanitarian Cecil Jackson-Cole in 1961, with the goal of helping older people who were living in isolation and poverty. By 2005, the charity had more than 1,800 employees and received £75 million a year to help elderly people. Its aims included targeting elder abuse and poverty, improving health and social care, combating isolation and loneliness and providing advice on pensions and benefits.
Age UK’s services
When it was decided to merge the two charities to form Age UK, both organisations’ goals were encompassed in the new mission statement. The charity assists older people with vital, traditional services, such as looking after health needs and combating malnutrition and dehydration.
It also cares for their social needs and runs programmes to put an end to loneliness. Its Homeshare scheme is aimed at prolonging people’s independence, so they can stay in their own home for as long as possible.
There are further services with a modern twist, such as its One Digital programme, which helps elderly people to improve their digital skills, giving them more confidence to live an independent life. The charity also provides a free advice line 365 days a year and handyperson services. Age UK says its vision for the future is to live in a society where everyone loves later life.
Confectionery manufacturer Cadbury’s has joined forces with Age UK to launch the Donate Your Words campaign, pledging 30% of the sales of special bars of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk to the charity. The campaign is helping 1.4 million older people in the UK who face loneliness.
The usual words have been removed from the packaging of the limited-edition 360g bar, which features just the “glass and a half of milk” illustration. The donation means Age UK will be able to provide more services and support for those aged over 65, who often go a week without speaking to anyone.
The campaign also urges shoppers to “donate their words” by reaching out and having a chat with an older person, even if it’s just saying “hello” to someone and stopping for a chat in the supermarket, or going round to an elderly neighbour’s house to make sure they are okay.
Improving care homes
Age UK has supported legislation to improve care homes. In May 2019, the charity published its latest policy on care homes. It demanded that residents must be able to remain in contact with their family and local community, enabling them to maintain their personal identity.
They must also be protected against poor care, abuse and breaches of their consumer rights. Life in a care home is not just about receiving care. In the case of older residents who have dementia, they may be living in a residential care home for several years, so it’s important they feel comfortable there.
Age Concern has drawn up a care home checklist, advising on things to look out for and questions to ask when it comes to choosing a home. The buildings and grounds should be well maintained and inviting, while the staff must be welcoming. The home should smell clean and fresh, with the rooms kept at a comfortable temperature. Family and friends should have easy access and be able to visit without problems.
Help with washing, dressing, eating, personal care and taking medication are only part of the picture and many care homes also offer social activities, such as outings and day trips.
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