Independent Age
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Independent Age

How our Readers’ Panel has made an impact

Our Readers’ Panel is a group of older people who share their thoughts and experiences to help us improve our content

Who’s on the Readers’ Panel?

At Independent Age, we produce a range of advice guides, factsheets and leaflets, as well as online material. We want to make sure these publications are clear, useful, easy to read, attractive and well-designed for our service users. For help on how best to do this, we often turn to our Readers’ Panel, a group of older people who act as advisers to Independent Age, providing insight, personal experience and opinions.

What does our Readers’ Panel do?

When we need the Readers’ Panel’s help, we contact them by email or post. Often this is when we’re updating a publication or creating a new one. For some projects, we might also speak to the panel over the phone or in online focus groups, to get their opinions or hear their personal stories in more detail.

The Readers’ Panel is brilliant at spotting things for us to fix in our publications — from any words that are unclear or unhelpful, cluttered or confusing information, to problems with design that make our information difficult to read. They also offer valuable suggestions and ideas, allowing us to continue improving and developing our information.

This past year

Over the past year, with the continued impact of the pandemic, it’s been more important than ever for our publications and online information to remain relevant, engaging and useful. Despite the obstacles created by these unprecedented times, the Readers’ Panel members have continued to prove how vital they are to us, rising to every challenge and providing the Information team with invaluable insights and ideas.

A woman smiles at the camera. She’s sat a desk in front of a computer with her hands in typing position on a keyboard. She wears a headset with microphone.
Lorna working on away on the Independent Age Helpline

Lorna, for example, is in the unique position of not only being part of the Readers’ Panel, but also a member of the Independent Age Helpline team, providing advice and information to a variety of callers.

“I wanted to do something else for Independent Age, so decided to join the Readers’ Panel,” says Lorna. “I’ve found it very interesting, being a part of both. Sometimes I look at the new guides and factsheets coming out and think, ‘Oh, this will be so useful for the Helpline’.”

The unpredictability of the past year has seen us create a variety of new online material, to quickly get new information out. With so many people worried about the current energy crisis, for example, we felt it was crucial to update our web content to provide support and reassurance. Lorna and our Readers’ Panel were influential in shaping our newly published Managing your energy bills webpage, and gave personal accounts of how they’d been dealing with the rising cost-of-living.

The panel has also:

Lorna talks about why the Readers’ Panel is necessary:

“It makes sure the information we publish is pitched at the right level for our service users. So often I hear of organisations sending people information in a layout or manner that is not appropriate for them. Our own guides and information are very readable and user friendly, and our service users can relate to the quotes and examples we use. This can only come about by canvassing the opinions of the Readers’ Panel members and taking on board the feedback from them.”

Lorna recently helped with creating a soon-to-be-released leaflet. Last September we also tested out two new factsheets: Complaints about health services and complaints about social care services. The panel was quick to point out how the factsheets could be shorter and clearer, by adding more bullet points and headings, removing repetition and organising the information better.

“It’s not always just about reading information,” says Lorna. “A while back we were asked to look at layouts and colours that were to be used in the guides, and then we also looked at information on the website.”

Lorna also helped to rename our Independent Advocacy factsheet, which is now titled Helping you get your voice heard: Independent Advocacy. We’ll often turn to the Readers’ Panel for smaller issues, such as name changes: for example, an adviser suggested that our Difficult Conversations hub should perhaps be renamed, to avoid putting people off having these conversations. This was quickly solved by contacting the panel members, who supported this idea and suggested plenty of alternatives — the page is now titled Talking About Sensitive Subjects. These quick changes may seem small, but they’re vital in making sure the right advice reaches the right people.

We’re always looking for people to join our Readers’ Panel to help us make sure our information is clear, useful, easy to read, attractive and well designed. Find out more and apply here: https://www.independentage.org/information/join-our-readers-panel

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