Age Concern was the banner title used by a number of charitable organisations (NGOs) specifically concerned with the needs and interests of all older people (defined as those over the age of 50) based chiefly in the four countries of the United Kingdom.
In addition to providing practical support to individuals, Age Concern campaigned on issues such as age discrimination and pensions, and works to influence public opinion and government policy about older people.
Numerous Age Concern organisations have been established throughout the UK, working at national and local levels. At the national level, four Age Concern organisations covered England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Local Age Concerns vary from small village groups to countywide organisations. In England, over 370 of the individual charities were members of a national federation. Although each was a separate registered charity working under the Age Concern banner, the federation allowed members to collaborate at local, regional and national levels, to share resources, expertise and influence.
Similar organisations also exist in New Zealand, Spain, Ukraine, and elsewhere under similar banners. There is a strong international network considered to be one of the leading authorities on aging related issues.
Since the merger of Age Concern England and Help the Aged, Age UK has taken over the mantle of the national face of Age in the UK, and several local organisations have also adopted the new name, many local organisations continue to operate as Age Concerns.
Age Concern's origins are British and can be traced back to a realisation in that country of the effects on aged people of the Second World War; the dislocation and breakdown of family life arising out of conscription led to a recognition that existing poor laws failed to provide effective support for old people separated from family support networks.
In 1940, the Old People’s Welfare Committee (OPWC), chaired by Eleanor Rathbone, was formed as a forum for discussion between government and voluntary organisations. OPWC was a sub-committee of Liverpool Personal Service Society (PSS). In 1944, the committee changed its name to the National Old People’s Welfare Committee (NOPWC), and took on responsibility for coordinating the activities of numerous local OPWCs.
From the 1950s onwards, NOPWC accessed government and local funds associated with the post-war development of the welfare state, to provide services to local committees, and training to wardens of old people's homes.
In 1968 it became clear to the then chairman of the NOPW council Denise Newman that an organisation funded within government and run by unaccountable grandees was not an effective voice for the needs of the elderly. At that time the funding allocated from government through the Department of Social Services was £40,000 a year. One problem was that the minister responsible (Dick Crossman) was not in a position politically to guarantee that should the group break with government that the funds would naturally follow to the new entity. So it was the taking of this funding risk which initially marked out Age Concern as part of a new way of dealing with what could be seen as a government supported charitable exercise. Secondly, having successfully established itself with its own premises and retained its £40,000 grant, Newman then insisted that the newly appointed CEO be salaried, and therefore accountable. This was the first salaried appointment of the senior executive of any charity in the UK.
In 1971, under the new direction of David Hobman, the NOPWC changed its public name to Age Concern, and separated itself entirely from government and the National Council for Social Service, now NCVO. It did so while also launching a 'manifesto for old age' and establishing itself nationally as a lobbying body as well as an organisation that engaged in service provision and enhancement, training and research.
On 30 May 2006, Age Concern launched Heyday - marking the launch by carrying out the UK's biggest survey, asking 10 million people born in the 1940s and 1950s for views on issues such as ageism, pensions and health.
Heyday was launched as a separate not-for-profit membership organisation for all people who are thinking about, planning for or in retirement. Heyday offered members access to expert advice on finances, work, retirement and health, as well as providing them with a voice and putting them in touch with one another, for a small annual subscription.
With ambitious membership targets, a year after launch, Heyday had proved an expensive and controversial exercise within the Age Concern federation. Due to lower than expected membership take-up, Age Concern restructured the Heyday scheme, introducing new recruitment channels such as through corporate schemes, and streamlined the supporting infrastructure to more closely meet the lower level of activity.
Shortly after a Charity Commission report made a number of recommendations, Heyday announced that the membership scheme would close on 31 March 2009, noting that Heyday would maintain a presence on the Age Concern website following the merger with Help the Aged.
In May 2008, Age Concern England and Help the Aged announced plans for the two charities to merge. Following consultation, this was confirmed in September, when Dianne Jeffrey was confirmed as the new chairman of trustees.
The merged charity, now known as Age UK was formed on 1 April 2009, and launched a major branding exercise in April 2010, featuring Brian Cox, Ian McKellen and Eleanor Bron in the charity's first television campaign.
- One of these is Age Concern Manchester: http://www.silverservice.org.uk/
- Silver Service (newsletter of Age Concern Manchester)
- Third Sector, retrieved 12 March 2009
- Heyday website retrieved 9 March 2009
- Heyday review, Christopher Kelly, June 2009 (Retrieved 23 March 2010)
- Fundraising UK article, retrieved 22 Oct 2008
- Community Care article, retrieved 22 Oct 2008
- Third Sector, retrieved 12 March 2009
International Age Concern organisations: