As we move towards 2020 and the decade in which we will turn 60, we want to hold onto the values and the work which make this charity unique and important, but it’s time for the name to change.
Did you know that the original name for the company that we now know as Google was BackRub? Imagine how different our conversations would be if that name hadn’t changed.
What’s in a name?
Contact the Elderly isn’t a bad name, is it? Well, it depends who you ask. More than 10 years ago, journalists were being advised to avoid using the word ‘elderly’: it had become a recognised as a discriminatory term. Newspapers were starting to shun the word and it was being removed from the lexicon of social care services.
At Contact the Elderly, volunteers and staff alike are passionate about the powerful importance of the work that we do together – and dismayed that the name of the charity is so problematic that they simply avoid using it when they speak to our older guests.
In 2018, nearly nine out of ten of the Contact the Elderly staff team said we needed a new name. Earlier this year we used our e-newsletter to ask our volunteers to let us know their views and ideas.
The name scored as ‘great’ among only 16% of our volunteers in that spring 2019 survey.
Half of you chose the answer “it’s okay” – which we took as hardly a ringing endorsement. We knew anecdotally that some volunteers would describe Contact the Elderly as a great charity with a dreadful name.
Who’s heard of us?
More than 50 years after our founding, a staggering 85% of our volunteers reported that when they speak about this charity, they find that other people haven’t heard of Contact the Elderly.
Do we want to be a hidden gem, or do we want to be able to shout about our work from the rooftops and make sure that every older person who needs us is aware that we are here for them?
What does the future hold?
As we raise the profile of the charity and develop our work with more older people, we have decided to change our name. Now, it is one thing to agree that change is a good idea, but it is quite another to agree and decide what that change should be.
This year, we set about trying to find a name which would capture the essence of what we do at Contact the Elderly, a name that recognises that what we do is create connections, help people engage in relationships, bring social lives back to older people who have lost them, and give older people the chance to make friends within their local communities and keep those friends via regular contact.
Time for tea?
We also wanted a name that would last. We love our tea parties and they will forever be the backbone of our work, but two-thirds of our volunteers agreed that we should develop other activities to engage older people.
Meanwhile, we are regularly approached with ideas about developing groups that will open up our work to more members of our communities. We know that there are a lot more people we would like to reach and that diversifying our groups and seeking new activities will help us to get us in touch with more of them.
We want to make sure that we are offering a variety of activities for older people, including those who may prefer something other than a tea party.
Finding a name
We have heard a lot of ideas along the way – some were lovely, some were odd, some too long or too short. What do we want?
Well, most of all, we want a name we can all use. It makes me incredibly sad that some older people might be missing out on joining one of our groups because people have all sorts of different ways of talking about us and naming us (because pretty much anything is better than saying the word ‘elderly’) so it’s not clear how to get in touch with us.
I know the team of both staff and volunteers agree – everyone wants us to help more older people to re-engage with their communities. A fresh charity name which avoids words like ‘elderly’ will help a lot.
We also want a unique name - and that isn’t easy to find. There are a lot of organisations and companies already out there using some fantastic or clever names that would be just perfect for us!
Several people suggested we simply go back to our old name, which was Contact. But we need the website address to be available and the name to be uniquely ours, and another organisation already has that name and – crucially – the associated website address.
Loving that name
I am confident that most people reading this are like me: we love the work that we do. We are proud of the way that our groups are making a difference to lives right across the UK. We love the potential there is to do more.
We want to reach more older people and engage with more volunteers in local communities.
I am also confident that we can find a name for the charity which will go to our very core and reflect our mission to work in communities and help older people and volunteers get together and create lasting bonds. It is these bonds that ensure that, after a lifetime’s rich experience, older people are not left alone. That is precious and essential.
Am I confident that everyone will love a new name? The honest answer is that I am not. But I am confident that we agree that a refreshed name and brand will help us to do more great work and find more and more older people.
We can’t make everyone love our old name or the new one that we choose, but we can all agree that the work we do is vital and that we are proud that we are part of changing lives and communities at a critical time.
I am excited that we will soon be ready to share with you not just a name but the story of how we got there and a vision for all of us to engage within our communities and help those who are isolated and vulnerable to re-engage with neighbours and friends they may have never imagined they would meet.
Come celebrate older persons with us at Silver Sunday
Silver Sunday is a special day in the national calendar when everyone can come together to celebrate older people.
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