Scottish Older Peoples Assembly - we usually call ourselves SOPA, which is far easier but I thought I had better give you the full name to start with.
Diana Findlay, chairperson of SOPA
Originally there was the Older People's Consultative Forum which was facilitated by a government officer and in those days Nichola Sturgeon frequently attended in her role as Health Minister. Older people, who represented their groups from all over Scotland attended and we were able to ask questions and raise issues - we also learned a little of what was happening so that we could report back to our members. At that time I was representing Scottish Older Peoples Advisory Group (SOPAG) which was the Scottish part of Better Government for Older People.
We morphed into Age Scotland facilitating the group for a couple of years before the facilitation of the group was taken over by Edinburgh City Council and eventually in 2011 we became a stand-alone charity.
SOPA has over 40 members currently, including community groups, national organisations, equality and minority groups and lifelong learning associations along with individual members. The combined reach of this membership is considerable across Scotland, representing many of whom are affected by ill-health, come from disadvantaged and diverse backgrounds and who often feel excluded from decision making.
Our aim is to represent the views of all Older People and raise matters of concern that our members put forward and we are very often invited to participate in meetings with various departments of Government and other relevant organisations.
We have a seat on the Older Peoples Strategic Action Forum which is chaired by the Minister for Older People & Equality so are able, together with other organisations who attend to discuss matters that concern Older People in different ways.
One project we are currently promoting is trying to encourage all Local Authorities to appoint an Older Peoples Champion. We currently have 4 Older Peoples Champions in our ranks and a few more of the 32 Councils who have shown an interest and we hope will come on board - surely a network of Older Peoples Champions would strengthen the voice of Older People. We are delighted that Age Scotland is supporting us in this vision and working in partnership always strengthens the message. It is obligatory in Wales that every Council has a n Older Peoples champion - so why not here?
We are associate members of Unforgotten Forces and recently held a very successful event in Bathgate with them. Most people attending were obviously Veterans, sometimes with wives - there was a great deal of information presented to them about the vast range of help that is on offer to them by various organisations who are part of the consortium. A lovely lunch and lots of chatter - 2 gentlemen who had served together on the same ship were surprised to meet as they hadn't seen each other since they retired - all made for a very happy event..
We are also an associate member of Centre of Ageing Better which has a section called Age Friendly Communities Network in which we are involved . Again encouraging the statutory sector to work towards making lasting changes in society that make a difference to peoples experience of later life, now and in the future. Ageing is inevitable but how we age is not!
Our Coordinator Caroline Clark, who works part time in our Edinburgh office and also Avril who assists her do a great deal of work to keep the wheels of the organisation turning and are currently planning our next Assembly which is to take place on 5th October in the Scottish Parliament. This will be our 10th Assembly, which coincides with the Parliament celebrating their 20th anniversary and we have organised an interesting programme with 6 workshops which will allow those attending to raise matters which need attention and as there will be our Minister and other MSP's in attendance hopefully it will be a mutually beneficial exercise!
We are keen to undertake more outreach meetings, to engage with more Older People in areas where we have no representation as yet and we will be continuing to participate in consultation and engagement activities by the Scottish Government, Scottish Parliament and other national and local bodies. Currently we hold our meetings every 2/3 months, alternating between Edinburgh and Glasgow for ease of transport for Members, however this could change as nothing is set in stone and we are always keen to meet the expectations and suggestions of our Members.
I realise that this has been a very factual piece, never having written a BLOG before it's a new experience for me but if you would like to know more about us why not turn to our Website, where you will find the names of our Members and lots more information:-