People (sometimes rightly, sometimes not) often criticise the concept of European Years for not achieving much, and not reaching out beyond the usual suspects. I chair the national steering group for the European Year of Active Ageing in the UK and we have been making an effort to make sure that we have a real impact on the people the year is about and also achieve something that will have value after 31 December 2012. Friday 27 April saw achievements that I think work on both those areas.
Firstly, in the morning, we hosted a digital clinic at Europe House. It was linked to the Spring Online campaign, and the idea was to provide a chance for older people to get advice on all sorts of technical issues. I helped with items as varied as teaching someone to cut and paste, demonstrating Skype, discussing how to host a blog and purchase a domain name, and unblocking hotmail accounts. We had iPads and Kindles for people to try out. We set up Facebook, Twitter and Skype accounts. The over-50s had signed up via Age UK London and we had volunteers from there, this office and the Department of Work and Pensions helping people out. I also noticed a few of the volunteers sneakily getting advice from their more digitally-inclined colleagues! The feedback on the day was amazing, with all the participants really valuing the time that the volunteers had given to help out. In fact, there was significant demand for another event, and we’ll bear it in mind.
Secondly, that afternoon, I chaired a meeting of the national steering group for the European Year, and we spent considerable time talking about how we can make the year mean something for the sector. We’ve had some good ideas, and I hope that in a month or so they will be clear enough to be able to see whether they will work. We’re clearly focusing on sustainability, in terms of, who will carry the work forward if there’s not longer a reason to meet as the steering group. We’re not interested in creating things for the sake of it, without the support of and investment (in the broadest sense) of the sector. Watch this space.