Gwynedd taking the first steps to become an Age Friendly county
Cyngor Gwynedd will take the first steps on the road to ensuring the county’s communities are pleasant, safe and accessible places for people as they age, should the Cabinet approve a recommendation to commit to the aim of creating an Age Friendly Gwynedd.
Welsh Government and the Older People’s Commissioner’s vision is for every county in the country to be Age Friendly by 2025, and Cyngor Gwynedd will commit to gaining the accreditation within the next year, if the Council's Cabinet supports the recommendation at its meeting on 25 April.
Work has already begun to ensure that all services across the Council are aware of what is age friendly, to recognise where this is being done successfully and just as importantly to identify what needs to be developed.
The creation of an Age Friendly Gwynedd is not the sole responsibility of the local authority – should the Council's Cabinet agree with the recommendation, officers and members will work closely with partners from other authorities and organisations, as well as the community, to ensure that the county is a pleasant place for everyone, regardless of their age.
The idea of age friendly communities and cities was started by the World Health Organisation, with the intention of identifying and tackling the obstacles which effect the wellbeing of older people, preventing them from participating in society. According to the organisation, factors that make life challenging for older people and lead to loneliness often overlap. Ensuring age friendly communities can help people to remain independent and continue to feel part of society.
Cyngor Gwynedd has started mapping out the route towards gaining Age Friendly Communities accreditation by Welsh Government with the Aging Society (2021) strategy as the basis for the work.
Councillor Dilwyn Morgan, Cyngor Gwynedd’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for the Adults’, Health and Wellbeing Department said: "Older people are valued residents of the county with 30% of Gwynedd's population aged 60 or over, or 35,300 out of 117,400 people.
"They have worked and contributed in so many ways to build the communities we are proud of today. It is important to remember how much they continue to contribute even after retirement age, for example by helping their families, through paid or voluntary work, and carrying out social and cultural activities.
"That is why as a Council we are passionate about developing the age-friendly mentality across the Council and with our partners, by making age-friendly matters an integral part of all developments and services. I'm looking forward to presenting the report to the Cabinet and really hope for the support of my fellow members so that we can get on with the work."
Cyngor Gwynedd has invested in the project by allocating one full-time officer, funded through the Welsh Government's annual budget. The duties of this officer include coordinating the effort across all the Council's departments and ensuring that the needs of older people are taken into account when developing services and investing in resources, as this is not just a matter for social services.
For example, ensuring the accessibility of resources is to be considered; that facilities such as benches and toilets are available in public places; that public services use suitable vocabulary when discussing the needs of older people; that dignity and respect are central to services; and much more.
The Council has already discussed the matter with the county’s older people forums to hear the voices of local people and is asking for people to get in touch if they have concerns to raise or matters to discuss. There are plans in place to work with partners to ensure that the whole community is Age Friendly, not only the services that Cyngor Gwynedd itself provides.
Councillor Dilwyn Morgan added: “Unfortunately, a lot of people have lost their confidence following the pandemic. I hear of older people being nervous about going out to socialise, to volunteer and to take part in activities in the community as they used to.
"By looking at the environment and our communities, I am very confident that we as a Council and our partners do everything we can to encourage people to get out once again. It is important to remember that Age Friendly also means suitable and accessible for everyone else too, for example younger people with disabilities or a long-term medical condition, those who are pregnant or parents of small children.
"Older people make a tremendous contribution to society and we need to show our appreciation by making the community welcoming to their needs."
Cyngor Gwynedd is keen to hear from the people of the county about good ideas and about shortcomings that disproportionally affect older people. If you have a concern or comment, please contact MirainLlwydRoberts@gwynedd.llyw.cymru or by calling 01286 682818.