Award to Tessa Harding at the annual Gerontology conference

Issue date: 01 September 2009

British Society of Gerontology Annual Conference A special award will be made at the annual conference of the British Society of Gerontology to Tessa Harding MBE for her contribution to British Social Gerontology. The conference takes place at the University of the West of England on 2 to 4 September 2009.

The annual Alan Walker Prize is made to an individual or organisation that, in the opinion of the judges, has made a significant and lasting contribution to British Social Gerontology.

Professor Alan Walker, Chair of the judges after whom the prize is named said,
“Tessa Harding has made a major long term contribution to the empowerment of older people and ensuring that their individual and collective voices are heard by policy makers. She is a very worthy recipient of this award and truly reflects the outstanding contribution to gerontology that it is intended to honour.”

Tessa developed Help the Aged's 'Speaking Up for Our Age' programme of support for Senior Citizens Forums and convened the Older People's Reference Group which advised on the development of the National Service Framework for Older People.

Tessa Harding said, “I'm really delighted to receive this award. It is hard to believe that even ten or fifteen years ago it was almost unheard of for older people to have any influence on matters that concerned them intimately. The aim of 'Speaking Up for Our Age' was to help to develop a democratic infrastructure through which older people could make their voices heard.

“It was and is a programme of 'no strings' support for autonomous Senior Citizens' Forums. It was really very simple: it met essential administrative and transport costs, offered policy support and created opportunities to people involved in Forums to get together and learn from each other. As such Forums grew in numbers and in confidence, older people became directly involved in influencing policy locally, nationally and internationally.

“'Engagement' of older people has now become a recognised objective of Government policy. It is programmes like Speaking Up that led the way and showed what was possible. A lot of people were involved in making 'Speaking Up for Our Age' happen, including the thousands of older people who got involved across the country and those like Rodney Hutchen, Debbie Beale and the national and regional teams at Help the Aged who worked so hard to put the programme into practice across the UK. If anything was a collective effort, SUFOA certainly was!”

Tessa Harding was Head of Policy and subsequently Senior Policy Adviser for Age Equality and Human Rights at Help the Aged from 1996 to 2006. She previously worked at the National Institute for Social Work (1990 – 96), the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (1984 - 90) and for three local authorities (1972-84).

While at Help the Aged, Tessa was a member of the Better Government for Older People steering group, an adviser to the Government's Beacon Councils programme and to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation's Older People's programme, on the advisory board of the ESRC Growing Older Programme and a member of the Kings Fund Inquiry into social care for older people in London.

For further information on this year's conference see:

Celebrating the role of older people

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