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That was the year that was... 2016

13/12/2016 - Jane Mussared, CE

590,000 South Australians are aged over 50 and they are vigorously redefining the way we age.
Together we are challenging the community and ourselves to think differently about what possibilities and opportunities we might create to influence, contribute and connect to our community.

While the number of older people is significant, so too is the diversity, and COTA SA reflects the rich tapestry of incomes, health, culture, family relationships, sexual orientation, beliefs and attitudes through the many activities that we are part of.

We have created a range of new opportunities to interact with members and beyond members to a wide range of other older people over the last year.

Communication and interaction

We undertook a survey of all members earlier this year. We asked them what they think matters most, how we are doing and what else they thought we should be doing. The almost 900 who responded nominate health as their biggest priority but also emphasised aged care, cost of living, age discrimination and a host of other topics that they thought we should continue to be active in.

Of great pleasure to me was the very positive feedback we got about the COTA SA response when they contacted to raise an issue or seek help. They also valued the national ONECOTA magazine, mailed in hard copy on a regular basis to every member. We remain committed to non-electronic communication.

But we have extended other communication channels adding Facebook, Twitter, a fortnightly email newsletter and a new quarterly online magazine, Evolve. We have also offered a wide range of seminars and information sessions for older people. These included sessions about digital technology, health, exercise, housing and aged care.

Strength for Life

Strength for Life is spreading still further throughout SA and now the NT. It is a program that reintroduces older people to exercise and is now available in 88 gyms and centres across SA and reaching more than 3,000 people a week. It is huge.
And this year our 28 peer educators led 171 sessions reaching more than 3,600 people on topics including medication, fitness to rive and aged care.

Peer Educators

Our awesome peer educators are also increasingly being asked to support other areas of work both at COTA SA and elsewhere, providing feedback on proposed changes to legislation, to a new booklet about the rights of older people and very recently as leaders of statewide conversations with older people.

Advocacy and Policy

Our advocacy and policy voice continues to be an important influence on topics such as design, technology, housing, health, elder protection, incomes, aged care and employment. The COTA SA Policy Council leads much of this, assisted by volunteers who represent COTA SA on as many as 40 different influential councils and committees. This year we have worked hard to create a spotlight on two areas of great importance to older people - housing and employment.

We are getting somewhere with housing with the state government committing $150,000 in the last budget to look at new options to meet the housing needs of single older women, identified as a priority by us and others. We have worked with TACSI and with the University of Adelaide and Housing for the Aged Action Group (HAAG) to understand the housing needs of older people who once would either have owned their home or been eligible for public housing.

We have been much less successful in getting the State or Federal Governments to pay attention to the tragedy of older unemployment, although we recognise the Willing to Work Inquiry undertaken by Dr Patterson's predecessor. We have worked closely with DOME. And I pay tribute to SAPN and OzTrain who have worked with us to explore what baby boomer workers plans are for their futures as part of understanding attitudes to work and careers as we age.

Innovation

We are creating new ways that older people can make their voices heard not just through COTA's advocacy but in their own right including as partners in the emerging living laboratory movement. Living Labs are an outstanding opportunity for older people to help define the priorities for innovation and to be part of testing, improving and quite probably marketing design. The State Government priority on building an industry around excellence in ageing well is an opportunity we should not miss.

Every Generation Festival

The Every Generation Festival is making more of a splash than ever.

The Festival, so crucial in our campaign to disturb stereotypes of ageing, reached every corner of SA over the last 2 weeks. We kicked off with SALA in August with a stunning exhibition by Aboriginal mosaic artists Sandy Miller and Terry Walker and textile artist Barbara Mullins - all older women testing and stretching themselves. Please take a moment to look at Sandy and Terry's mosaic in our foyer, kindly donated to COTA SA by our President, Anne Edwards.

The Festival proper included 270 events, including 28 local government areas, 8 of which were rural councils.

And then there were the events that COTA SA curated with great support from a growing number of sponsors - Elvis through Andy Seymour, the annual ageing conversation with George Negus,a fete at the Botanic Gardens, and a fabulous Food is Love lunch at the Italian Club with Salvatore Pepe and Rosa Matto.

A People's Movement

COTA SA is a people's movement and all sorts of people have been working with great vigour in all sorts of roles. I pay tribute to the people of COTA SA:

• Our very strong Board, with active Finance and Audit and Governance Committees and guidance well beyond traditional governance to support all parts of the organisation
• Our Policy Council that has been represented everywhere from the stage at the SAHMRI Scientific Symposium to the LGBTIQ Forum to housing seminars
• Our funders - Department of Health and OFTA in particular, Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, DIPTI,
• Our EGF sponsors - SA Water, Resthaven, Adelaide PHN, Country PHN, Greven & Co, Turner Real Estate, ECH, KeyInvest, Kincare, Southern Cross and Helping Hand.
• Our many organisational partners including ARAS, SA Rainbow Advocacy Alliance, Economic Development Board, all three universities, MCCSA, SACOSS, TACSI, SAHMRI
• Our colleague COTAs in other states and territories and nationally and COTA Insurance
• The organisations that have donated services to older people especially lawyer Phil Harris and financial services company Greven & Co, and our emerging COTA computer club folk
• Our parliamentary representatives including Minister Bettison and her Government colleagues, Shadow Minister Stephen Wade, upper house members especially Kelly Vincent, John Darley, Mark Parnell and Robert Brokenshire
• Our students who helped us with the EGF and with constructing an engagement framework
• Our 100 plus volunteer team who do just about anything - represent us on 40+ external committees, take COTA SA to expos all over the state, provide individual support to older people needing help to get out of a jam, undertake admin and data inputting, look after reception, manage bookings and so on.
• Our leadership group of Finance Manager Sarah Groth and Head of Innovation and Programs, Kirsty Rawlings, who is about to act as Chief Executive for a month.
• And finally our staff team, which while leaner than for many years, is very creative, very productive, very committed and very strong.

While we have some work to get our finances back into the black, if our richness is measured in people power, we are in great shape.

Your views matter...

Do you have any comments on what we've been up to this year, or ideas for next year? We'd love to hear from you, email us your thoughts and suggestions: cotasa@cotasa.org.au