Press Office


Rights of older people championed by councils and University


North East councils are working with Newcastle University to become world leaders in enshrining and protecting the rights of older people.

A group of elected councillors from across the North East have met for the first time with partners from Newcastle University to begin their work around highlighting the benefits of an ageing population. The councillors who are political leads or champions for older people in their local authority will work as part of this new group to implement aspects of the North East Charter for Changing Age.

All 12 local authorities in the North East have signed up to the North East Charter for Changing Age, which has been developed in partnership by the North East Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, the Association of North East Councils, AGE UK and the Newcastle Initiative on Changing Age at Newcastle University. 

Together they have identified that something must be done to turn around negative stereotypes of older people and ageing. The Charter aims to tackle this issue and raise awareness of the opportunities that are presented by an ageing population.

For the first time ever the number of people over 60 years old out-numbers those under 16 years. This is set to become common place for the future and 1 in 4 of today’s primary school children can expect to live to be over 100 years old.

The Charter highlights the opportunities for the North East to maximise the positive aspects and potential benefits of an ageing society.

It is a framework to help shape the North East’s response to the fact that we are living longer and healthier lives. It offers all local authorities and partners who sign up, a set of guiding principles to direct policy making and strategy development on health and social care as well as all aspects of development including future transport, housing, culture and work.

Beyond local authorities, the Charter can also be used by the wider public to raise awareness and be a call to action for individuals when they face ageism of any sort in society. It reinforces some of the basic principles that many people, especially older people, take for granted.

Councillor Paul Watson, Chair of the Association of North East Councils, said: “We are proud to support this Charter and to play our part in achieving its aims in every community we serve. Whilst we recognise that there will be challenges, there will also be opportunities to be grasped as councils take forward their increasingly important role in supporting everyone, regardless of age, to live healthy, safe, active and positive lives.

“The Charter really challenges everyone to think about what we need to do both as a society and individually to create communities and place.”

The Newcastle Initiative on Changing Age is the University’s response to the societal challenge of Ageing, seeking new ways to make the most of the extensive opportunities associated with increasing human longevity, while at the same time solving some of the problems. It is hoped that through these partnership arrangements, developed through the Charter, this expertise can be maximised to its full potential for the benefit of people living in the North East.

Professor Thomas Kirkwood, Associate Dean for Ageing, Newcastle University, said: “The good news is that due to better science and healthcare, life expectancy is dramatically increasing. We need to wake up to a new 29 hour day – research shows that for every 24 hours we live, on average we accrue an additional five hours each day. In other words, UK life expectancy is currently increasing by two more years every decade. The key issue is how best we make the most of our lengthening lives by improving health and wellbeing.

“The sort of negativity often witnessed today can only feed ageism and deepen individual pessimism about our own future and those of our loved ones. People make a massive contribution to society over a lifetime, be it work, caring for family and friends or volunteering and this doesn’t stop just because you have reached a certain age – it’s just a number!”

There are already some emerging examples of how the Charter can work in the future with discussions ongoing in regard to joint working between the 12 North East local authorities and Newcastle University on the provision of new assistive technologies for older people with Dementia.

The Directors of Adult Social Services in the North East have also recently confirmed funding for the North East Dementia Alliance to continue their valuable work in the region and there continues to be joint working with Years Ahead – the forum for ageing in the North East.

Photos show from left to right: Cllr Veronica Jones (Northumberland County Council), Graham Armitage (Newcastle Initiative on Changing Age, Newcastle University), Cllr Brenda Forster (Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council), Cllr David Coleman (Stockton Borough Council) and Cllr Ann Schofield (Newcastle City Council)

Further information: The Charter for Changing Age and Newcastle Initiative on Changing Age or to make contact with the Changing Age team

published on: 22 June 2012