Age NI launches ExpertAge

ExpertAge: Leading the way in personal and public engagement with older people. 

Yvonne McMorris, Age NI volunteer.

In response to the increasing demand for organisations to engage with Northern Ireland’s ageing population, as well as meet PPI (Personal and Public Involvement) requirements, Age NI has set up a social enterprise called ExpertAge.

Using a range of tailored engagement and outreach activities such as: focus groups; consultation events; one-to-one facilitated conversations; telephone surveys and market research, this bespoke service ensures that the voices and needs of older people are pivotal to decisions about their lives.

Delivered by a range of older people, who are trained and supported by Age NI, the ExpertAge team includes Age NI’s:

•   Consultative Forum (a panel of 40 older people whose role is to inform and influence policy and practice of Age NI);

•   Peer Facilitator Team (a cohort of older people trained in facilitation and engagement skills);

•   Staff Team with proven expertise in the delivery of engagement and participatory research projects.

Speaking on the success of the service to date, Linda Robinson explains, “ExpertAge is uniquely successful because of the skill, empathy and respect that our facilitators bring to this work. Older people trust them, open-up to them in the knowledge that their opinions and wishes are valued as well as heard.”

ExpertAge is one of the factors that led to Age NI receiving the prestigious Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award given to local volunteer groups across the UK. During 2014/15, volunteers donated an incredible 46,000 hours of their time to Age NI projects. The income derived from ExpertAge helps sustain the valuable and vital service activity of the charity as well as offering a competitively priced service to private and public organisations across Northern Ireland.

This service has been highly recommended by Northern Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride who claims the service provided “an invaluable insight into the thoughts of residents and their feelings about their care.” This view is shared by the BBC’s National Trustee and Chair of the BBC Audience Council, Aideen McGinley who claims it provided the BBC with a “representative and expert insight into what is expected” of the broadcaster on behalf of a diverse range of older audiences.

A former vice principle and carer, Yvonne McNorris joined ExpertAge in her retirement as she felt it provided an opportunity to give older people a voice. “We talk to older people who are often overlooked,” she said. “We listen to them. We encourage them to share their experiences and we enable them to find their voice again.”

Contact: Age NI

Maura McClean

Tel: 028 9024 5729

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