1(a) Relevant problems enhanced by Covid: Disrupted communities, loneliness, isolation, mental health / low self-esteem / loss of purpose, a stressed voluntary sector, reduced physical health and enforced early retirement.
(b) The opportunity: An enhanced willingness to listen to new ideas. A catalyst to address the above problems (which pre-existed but to a lesser extent).
(c) The idea: The young have structural signposting such as DofE, Scouts, Cadets, National Citizenship. Older people have no such equivalent. Many struggle with loss of status, structure, motivation and social connection after retirement. c.25% suffer from psycho-social issues (see Centre for Ageing Better research)
A scheme equivalent to The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award for over-55s would help to address the above issues as well as the following social issues:
(i) The issues for society of an ageing population (mental and physical health plus a resource for social contribution)
(ii) The difficulty for many in transitioning from the structure of a work-place
(iii) Perceived loss of meaning to life without the demands of a job
(iv) The need of some to build an alternative productive life when children leave home
(v) Loss of status and peer validation
(vi) Avoidance of loneliness or isolation
(vii) The loss to society of cumulated skills and wisdom
(viii) The difficulty of finding charities to work for
(ix) The difficulty of accessing low-cost adult learning.
2. I have explored this for 4 years. I have letters of support from former CEOs of DofE and PHE, from the CEOs of RVS, College of Medicine and Activity Alliance and from OU.
Based on that consultation period I have myself funded and established The Challenge Hub at http://www.thechallengehub.org. We launched after piloting in January 2020. The worst possible time for an initiative designed to build community and to promote physical activity but emergence from the pandemic offers a significant opportunity.
To become a significant piece of social infrastructure with widespread participation and so to meet its potential as a low cost / high social impact initiative it needs to be recognised at the highest institutional level.
Potential: Historically DofE has c250,000 registrations per annum and income of c£15,000,000 per annum. The over-55s demographic is bigger and wealthier.
3. The Challenge Hub
(a) A free to use online members’ inter-active hub designed to inform, inspire and motivate people based on learning, physical activity and social contribution – with pathways into (a) affordable adult learning opportunities (b) volunteering opportunities and (c) physical events and opportunities which encourage participation by older people.
(b) The Hub’s ideology (scientifically backed) is that people feel most fulfilled if they are simultaneously learning new things, taking physical exercise and helping others.
(c) That ideology is reflected in a challenge (called “The All in One”) which calls for achievements in each of the three categories of (i) learning (ii) physical activity and (iii) social contribution. Participation with the challenge is very much encouraged but the first hope of The Challenge Hub is that people aged over 55 will simply do and sustain something positive and fulfilling as a result of its activities.
5. Are we solely an on-line initiative?
No. Within the overall context of the initiative we run the following specific programmes:
(a) “Bridge to Retirement” by which we encourage HR departments to register retirees with us so that we can provide support, ideas and motivation during a period of potentially difficult life transition.
(b) “Generations Together” by which we will work with organisers of physical events to encourage participation by those aged over 55 plus also with youth organisations for intergenerational initiatives.
(c) “The Charities Challenge” by which we work with community groups or individual charities to develop separate challenges operated through The Challenge Hub under the generic name of The Charities Challenge and tailored for the community in question or for a charity’s service users.
(d) A body of Challenge Hub volunteers. 22 people are giving their time. There are no employees.
6. The public benefits
(a) It is a low cost / high social impact initiative.
(b) It enhances health and well-being at exactly the time when people are focusing on preventative medicine and initiatives such as social prescribing.
(c) It taps into the huge pool of talent available for use in the charity sector or in social care at a time when the services of the voluntary sector are in great demand.
(d) It encourages raising sponsorship monies for charity by those performing the physical challenge.
(e) Many people are reserved about offering to help because of a fear of being sucked in but this gives them a passport with an end-date.
(f) It offers inter-generational contact.
(g) It does not recognise geography or socio-economic descriptions.
(h) It encourages older people to be part of the solution to the problem of an ageing population.
7. The personal benefits
(a) It maintains or creates mental health and physical health.
(b) It gives a structure and motivation to those who would benefit from it. For example, those seeking to replace the work place structure or who otherwise simply need “something more”.
(c) It gives easier access to charities for rewarding volunteering roles.
(d) It offers a pathway into low-cost adult learning.
(e) It offers a sense of personal achievement and so maintains self-esteem.
(f) It offers peer validation by participation in a recognised scheme.
(g) It offers a possible springboard to new skills / sports / connections afterwards.
(h) It uses cumulated skills and wisdom which might otherwise be lost.
(i) It offers enjoyment through self-tailored challenges which enable different personalities to set individual goals.
(j) It recognises that helping others has the benefit of also helping oneself.