Independent Age
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Independent Age

LEAPing ahead: How our lived experience group helps make change happen

At Independent Age, we campaign to help make sure the UK is the best place in the world to grow old. That’s a big task, and often means we need to change laws and policies so that that vision can become a reality.

To make that happen, we rely on the support of thousands of people across the UK to contact their MP, sign petitions, feature in national media, attend parliamentary events and take even more action so that our work makes a real difference to the lives of older people.

An older woman smiles as she looks through a leaflet while sat at a kitchen table. There are piles of paper next to her.

One way people can do this is by joining our Lived Experience Advisory Panel (LEAP), a group of people aged 65 and over who meet regularly to shape how we influence decision makers about the most important parts of older people’s lives. They do this by sharing their experiences and thoughts, and co-producing ideas and reviewing our work — which means we know that we’re amplifying the voices of older people in everything we do.

LEAP is brilliant at helping us to understand the changes that can really make a difference, so it’s no surprise that the panel members’ contributions have a real impact on our campaigning activity, and how we go about doing it. This Volunteers’ Week, we wanted to not only celebrate and give thanks, but also to highlight some of the differences LEAP has made.

This past year

Members of LEAP have had a huge impact on our work in several sessions this year. Topics have ranged from improvements in signposting to support, along with image and language use in relation to poverty, bereavement and campaigns.

In our LEAP session about poverty, we shared some of the key themes that had been coming out in our research interviews with people in later life on low income. We ran some of the key findings passed LEAP members and asked if they thought these were the right focuses or whether we’d missed something. LEAP members raised additional concerns over cost-of-living and fuel price increases. Members also shared the importance of highlighting that poverty has an impact on other areas of an older person’s life, such as their mental health or their ability to go out with friends.

During this LEAP session we also shared images and language used in the media and online to describe older people with money worries. The members shared that:

  • The images in newspapers portrayed older people as weak and vulnerable and didn’t portray or refer to poverty itself. They felt there should be more of a distinction between the person and the poverty
  • There is no one-size-fits-all definition of poverty. For some, it is about deprivation more than money, for example, being deprived of health, services or community. This was a recurring theme — poverty goes beyond money
  • Someone might be currently financially okay, and not consider themselves in poverty, but have a strong feeling of insecurity, foreboding or dread about the future. This was also a recurring theme and something LEAP thought we should bring out in our research
  • Some headlines imply that older people are all the same and that these can be sensationalist or scaremongering
  • Language could focus more on presenting financial support like Pension Credit as an entitlement, rather than something people should be ‘grateful’ for, because this is disempowering when, in reality, it’s something they are entitled to.
A group of six older people sit around small tables and talk to each other about leaflets they are holding.

What we learned

LEAP members have shaped our thinking around the theme of poverty: that it is complex and affects people differently based on their own situation. We have used and will use the insights shared in this LEAP session to shape our activity, including:

  • Expanding our short briefings to look at the experiences of poverty in later life, including themes that go beyond financial concerns
  • Challenging societal attitudes and assumptions in our public-facing work about the value of, and contributions made by, people in later life
  • Recognising the need to emphasise in the language we use that people aren’t getting what they worked for
  • Ensuring we include reference to our information and advice services so that, alongside influencing the government, people feel empowered to act for themselves.

Thanks to our LEAP members, our research and campaigns are more credible and accurate and can more effectively challenge the disadvantage faced by many older people. We’re incredibly grateful to all members of LEAP, and we’re excited to continue working together.

You can also join our campaign email network to stay up to date with our activity and take action to ensure more people can live well with dignity, choice and purpose.

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