There is strength in numbers for Borders Older People’s Forum

Meeting guests...pictured at the last meeting of Borders Older People's Forum are (l-r) Councillor Claire Ramage, speaker Dr Vikki McCall and chairwoman Diana Findley.
Meeting guests...pictured at the last meeting of Borders Older People's Forum are (l-r) Councillor Claire Ramage, speaker Dr Vikki McCall and chairwoman Diana Findley.

It is imperative that older people in the Borders have a say on issues which directly affect them.

And that’s why Borders Older People’s Forum is hoping more members will come on board.

Fellow trustees...Councillor and Older People's Champion Elaine Thornton-Nicol with Wilson George from Hawick.

Fellow trustees...Councillor and Older People's Champion Elaine Thornton-Nicol with Wilson George from Hawick.

With meetings held once every two months, the forum tours the Borders – travelling to Berwickshire, Cheviot, Eildon, Teviot and Liddesdale and Tweeddale at least once a year.

The changing venue is purposeful – to encourage as many groups in the Borders to get on board as possible.

And the woman heading up the group is extremely passionate about it.

Diana Findley has a wealth of experience in championing the cause of older people, both locally and on a national level.

For as well as being forum chairwoman, she is also the Borders regional ambassador for Age Scotland and chairwoman of the Scottish Older People’s Assembly.

With all that experience under her belt, Diana is well-versed in issues facing older people and freely admits she is one herself.

And that’s why she wants to attract more local groups and organisations working with elderly people to join the forum.

She said: “People in their 20s and 30s cannot conceive what they will need when they are in their 70s and 80s.

“That’s why we need older people to join the forum and have a voice.

“Ideally, we want to attract representatives from groups and organisations of which older people are members.

“That way, they can be there to represent a group of older people rather than just an individual.”

The last meeting was held on November 21 in Burnfoot Community Hub with the theme being housing for older people.

The main speaker was Dr Vikki McCall of Stirling University, who is originally from Hawick.

Vicki has been leading a project on housing for older people with Heriot Watt and Dundee Universities, in association with Age Scotland.

And she discussed the final report, Housing and Ageing: Linking strategy to future delivery for Scotland 2030, with forum members.

Jim Eadie, Age Scotland policy officer (housing) was also in attendance.

Jim has been tasked by the Scottish Government to facilitate a roundtable discussion on its Housing Beyond 2021 strategy and feed back into the consultation.

Borders Older People’s Forum members’ views will be shared with the government.

Diana said: “It’s important for us to have a voice on issues which directly affect us.

“At every meeting, we book guest speakers who have relevant information to share with members.

“Ultimately, that’s what the forum is all about – sharing information and discussing matters relevant to older people in our region and across Scotland. As well as giving members a voice, the forum also gives them a chance to be truly heard.

“I would encourage representatives of older people’s groups and organisations to get involved so that we can make sure as many older people in the Borders as possible are aware of issues that are relevant to them.”

Diana is joined on the three-strong board of trustees by Councillor Elaine Thornton-Nicol, who is an Older People’s Champion.

Fellow trustee Wilson George from Hawick is a community councillor, as well as beiong involved in Men’s Shed and a number of other groups in the area.

It’s a strong and very competent board but they need support to act as a true voice for older people locally.

Diana added: “We’ve been able to attract really good speakers and the turnout at the last meeting was very good. But there is real strength in numbers so the more people we have joining the forum, the better.

“Anyone who would like to join should get in touch; we are only a phone call away.”

The forum regularly shares information on older people’s services and activities in the Borders, as well as giving members the opportunity to consult on issues of concern and holding regular meetings.

The next meeting, focusing on living well with dementia, will be held in Coldstream Community Centre on Tuesday, February 26, at 9.45am.

To find out more, call Diana Findley on 01835 823374 or email diana.findley@btinternet.com.

You can also call Elaine Thornton-Nicol on 0300 100 0220 or email E.Thornton-Nicol@scotborders.gov.uk.

Brief history of forum’s predecessors

In 1999, the Borders was chosen as one of 21 pilot areas across the UK to trial the Better Government for Older People project.

From that, the Elder Voice was born in the Borders in 2001 but, sadly, a shortage of people to serve on its board resulted in it being wound up in 2015.

However, the community capacity building team at Borders Council was keen to continue working closely with older people so a senior networking forum was set up.

That network has since become the Borders Older People’s Forum which, while still supported by the council, is now an organisation in its own right with its own board of trustees to manage meetings.

These are held once every two months in a variety of locations across the Borders to ensure everyone in the vast patch has a chance to attend at least one meeting every year.

Meetings are held in each venue at 9.45am and the 2019 schedule reads as follows:-

February 26: Coldstream Community Centre, Living Well with Dementia;

April 30: Peebles Burgh Hall, Transport Issues;

June 26: Burnfoot Community Hub, Getting the Basics Right;

August 27: The Haining, Selkirk, Learning in Later Life;

October 23: Carters Rest in Jedburgh, Keep Moving.

While the Board of Trustees appreciates people cannot attend every meeting, they do keep in touch with members regularly so that they can gauge numbers for each event.

Diana Findley, chairwoman, added: “It helps us to know how many people are coming along so that we know how many chairs to set out and in terms of refreshments.

“We keep in regular touch with members, in any case, to keep them notified of events of interest, both here in the Borders and across Scotland.”