Karen Renner, who has recently taken up post as Volunteer Coordinator at programme partner AgeUK Northumberland, gives us an insight into why delivering the Cancer, Older People and Advocacy programme is so important in Northumberland:
I started working as the Volunteer Coordinator on the Macmillan Cancer Advocacy Programme with Age UK Northumberland in September.
I have worked with volunteers in various roles in the past but I am new to advocacy.
I am passionate about the project. As Macmillan say, ‘no one should face cancer alone’ but sadly, in the case of older people this can be all too true. Over one million older people haven’t spoken to a friend, neighbour or family member for over a month. This is sad enough but faced with a cancer diagnosis, feelings of isolation and confusion are only magnified. That’s where our project comes in and can assist in ensuring that voices are heard, informed decisions taken and quality of life maintained.
Even those fortunate to have the support of loved ones can feel lonely. It is not unusual for older people to keep their concerns to themselves: they don’t want to trouble anyone and they don’t ‘want to be a burden’. An advocate can bridge this ‘gap’.
Working in Northumberland provides its own unique challenges and rewards. The county has vast rural areas with pockets of small communities that don’t have the ready access that more urban counties have to services and professionals. Older people are typically traditional, proud individuals who like to go about their daily lives with the minimum of fuss. That’s why the project is so important. One in three of us will be diagnosed with cancer at some stage of our lives and everyone should have support at that time.
I am fortunate to be working in a small team of dedicated, enthusiastic people who all feel the same way. We are working towards the vision of OPAAL: that is, the provision of high quality independent advocacy. Our volunteers will be the key to achieving this.
Karen Renner, Age UK Northumberland/Macmillan Volunteer Coordinator