Since I took up post as Commissioner in August, I have visited many outstanding community-based services throughout Wales that are providing support to older people and making a positive difference to their lives.
For older people, this means a chance to socialise with friends and develop new friendships and networks, vital to tackle loneliness and isolation. It means there are opportunities for older people to learn valuable new skills, or revisit old pastimes and hobbies left behind in years gone by. It means people feeling valued respected and part of their community.
Seeing these kinds of services for myself, alongside talking with the older people who use them and the people who run them, has made me question the view held by some that community-based services – such as day centres and lunch clubs – are outdated and unable to deliver personalised services.
The truth is that the best services, even those based on more traditional delivery models, combine thoughtful, individual and personal support to older people with the benefits that social contact, activities and a community focus can bring. The best services are also constantly evolving in small ways that may not always be apparent, as they listen and respond to the voices and ideas of the older people that they help and support.
Based on what I have seen over the past few weeks, person-centred, community-based services will continue to be a crucial part of the mix of services that should be available to support older people, and a key part of the fabric of a society in which people can age well.