“Everything is interconnected. We should take baby steps and try to calm things down. Communities will be a bit safer, people will engage more, it will stimulate opportunities for people to work together, there will be more empathy, more tolerance and more understanding. Communities will just be more friendly”, Claire Miller.
What is your job about?
At LinkAge we try to engage as many people in the local community over the age of 55 as possible, that way they get off the house, they are meeting new people, making new friends, they are physically active, and that helps to develop their personal resilience, because obviously as we all age we encounter more things in our life which are difficult to deal with. The more plugged in they are with the local community, the more peer support they have got, the better able they are to cope with that. So we do say it is positive activities with a bit of outreach. We are very aware of how fragile community dynamics can be, so the first thing we do when we work in a new area is find out what’s already on, raise the profile of that and then we work with that community on new activities. It is all very much about the community doing as much as possible for themselves which is really the catalyst to help initiate things.
What issues do you address?
- Loneliness and isolation. We realized that a lot of loneliness and isolation is linked with not having a role or an identity in the community.
- Sedentary lifestyles
- Wellbeing and happiness
What moved you to take action?
I would say that what moved me into action is the desire to work on things that I see can have a positive impact. I always wanted the opportunity which Link Age is giving me to influence and driving further organizations myself. I have always set within systems (I am a scientist) and this job is giving me the opportunity to move the organization forward into a new direction and to bring positive change in the community that we see around it.
What were the obstacles that you had to overcome?
I think that sometimes politics and the bureaucracy surrounding a lot of the system in terms of accessing fundings and working with partners can be frustrating. It is just the way things are structured. We know we are having a positive impact but sometimes is frustrating that people do not see that so you have to fight constantly to prove your work which is why I overdo things. But you want people to show this is having a benefit and I think they do not want to let go their communities doing things for themselves, they do not want to trust something that has a slightly different way of doing it, and you want them to let go.
What helped you keep going in hard times?
When things are tough I tend to look for other solutions. Part of the reason why I left my older job was not right and you have got to be very realistic with yourself and say that you are the only person who can control your future and if you have to change things, you have to make difficult decisions and you have to take responsibilities for change. This is obviously hard and scary and that is when you need the balance with other things in your life. So, in my case, I used to go surfing a lot when I was going through a difficult time. That counterbalanced what I was going through at work, then I moved on and I have this job which has been a really good opportunity to put my creativity and experience on practical things.
What first prompted you to become interested in environmental issues and when was that?
I have always been quite into the environment and the ecology, which I think links back to my degree. I believe that if society is living a dysfunction, it will impact the environment anyway because if people are not living sustainably in terms of resources and the planet they live on, it will deteriorate. If you look at things like global climate change, global warming, the impact of people using plastic on the ocean, it is all connected together. So it is all about looking at society, human links and how this can actually be improved.
On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being very happy) where would you rate how you feel about your life?
I would say 7 because there is always much more you can do.