We’re OPAAL, the only UK based national organisation supporting independent advocacy services for older people. We believe older people have the right to independent advocacy to support them to exercise their rights, express their views and make informed choices in all aspects of their lives. We work in partnership with our members to amplify older people’s voices, promoting independent advocacy so more people can access it.
Our Cancer, Older People and Advocacy (COPA) blog is a collaborative blog contributed to by OPAAL UK and all our advocacy partners. The cancer, older people and advocacy service is a partnership programme between OPAAL and Macmillan Cancer Support and is available in 10 areas of England and 1 in Wales.
Funded by Macmillan and BIG Lottery, peer advocates walk side by side, every step of the way, providing whatever support the older person affected by cancer needs. They aim to be the ‘voice’ of the older person, are non-judgmental and make sure those they support are heard and their views and opinions are acted upon.
Our blog is a space where we and our partners can amplify the voices of older people affected by cancer, giving them a platform to tell their stories. We have made a decision to be brave about the stories we tell, touching on issues including end of life, bereavement and the realities of living with a cancer diagnosis, either as a patient, a carer or both. We’ve published over 400 blog posts to date and many of these posts feature older people affected by cancer, telling their stories in their own words.
As well as supporting older people to tell their stories, the blog allows us to highlight new and emerging issues affecting older people, for example one of our most popular posts focussed on people ageing without children and the impact of one in five of us having no family or friends to support us in later life. We also shared Roger’s Story; a personal blog on his breast cancer diagnosis and his wishes to be treated holistically, introducing his sexuality without fear. We also highlight examples of good practice from our programme, inviting guest bloggers to share their expertise with our readers, who include older people affected by cancer, health and care professionals, academics and professionals from other voluntary organisations.
We work hard to continually improve the blog, most recently working with a small development group of older people to look at the kinds of images and photographs we use in our marketing materials, seeking their feedback on how we can make this more representative. We reach out to marginalised groups, including the older LGBT community, using our blog as a platform to give them a voice.