Plans are underway for the first ever Commonwealth Elders’ Forum linked to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in April 2018. CHOGM is an important date on the Commonwealth calendar – it’s when leaders from all 52 member countries gather in the UK to reaffirm their common values, address shared global challenges and agree how to work together to create a better future for all citizens.
The Forum is being organised by CommonAge, the Commonwealth Association for the Ageing. This accredited Commonwealth not for profit and non governmental organisation was formed just four years ago by a group of professional leaders in the aged care sector, mainly from Australia. They resolved to work together with the primary aim of improving the quality of life for older people throughout the Commonwealth, and also to promote stronger intergenerational linkages and cohesion between people of all ages.
The initial concept for CommonAge was developed and tested by its founding chairman Andrew Larpent at the CSC Leaders Conference in 2013, and was strongly supported as one of the leading initiatives to take forward after that event.
“From Australia and Antigua to Vanuatu and Zambia, through our growing networks, we are sharing ideas, creating connections, and combating ageism across the 52 countries of the Commonwealth,” says Mr Larpent. “While we believe we have much to offer to countries where services for the ageing are in the early stages of development, we also believe we have much to learn from developing countries where traditional respect for the wisdom and dignity of older people remains a prominent cultural attribute. We also believe that older people have important contributions to make to sustaining resilient civil societies in Commonwealth countries and that they should be supported in doing so.”
In just four years, the organisation has attracted support from health and care organisations and service providers in UK, Australia and Canada to help fund its activities.
The CommonAge Scholarships program has assisted professional colleagues from developing Commonwealth countries to attend the IAHSA/ACSA conference in Perth Australia 2015 and more recently, the Global Ageing Network/CURAVIVA Conference in Montreux, Switzerland. This gave scholarship recipients the opportunity to hear international speakers, participate in workshops and forums, make presentations and meet colleagues from all over the world, and to develop their leadership skills and experience.
Through its Life Story project, CommonAge is encouraging intergenerational activities and recording stories for generations to come. The project involves young people writing about an older person’s life experiences. The best five essays will receive prizes and many stories will be compiled into a book to be presented to Her Majesty The Queen and all Commonwealth Heads of Government to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s 92nd birthday in April 2018, and her 65 years as Head of the Commonwealth.
The organisation has also commissioned the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing to undertake a research project on ‘Ageing in the Commonwealth’. The report is intended to provide a baseline assessment of the status of older people and the support currently available to them from governments and non state organisations across all 52 countries of the Commonwealth. This important research will then be used to measure future progress and development.
The inaugural Commonwealth Elders’ Forum
Working in close collaboration with the National Care Forum, Care England, Age International and the International Longevity Centre (UK), the Forum will take place at the Wokefield Estate Hotel and Conference Centre, near Reading, Berkshire, 16 – 18 April 2018.
A bursary scheme, supported by leading international experts in compliance, quality assurance and care management, Quality Compliance Systems (QCS), has been established to assist care and retirement professionals from developing Commonwealth nations to attend. Applications for bursaries are currently invited and details are at www.commage.org.
International Care Homes Open Day 21 April 2018
Care Home Open Day is an established international initiative that encourages care home operators to open their doors to their local communities. Thousands of care homes across the UK, Australia and South Africa already take part and in 2018, CommonAge is encouraging care providers in all Commonwealth countries to participate.
CommonAge is keen to bring additional organisations into its network, and encourage colleagues across the UK to share learnings and experience with those doing similar work in developing countries.
As Andrew Larpent concludes: “It is time our sector looked over the horizon to see what is happening around the world in the development of services for older people. The UK has much to offer, and much to gain, from greater international engagement.”