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Message from Margaret Coles, Director of Devon Senior Voice

We live in an ageing society, and Devon Senior Voice (DSV) was started in 2008 with funding from Devon County Council and NHS Devon to help older people lead lives that are as fulfilling as possible, by identifying issues to be explored and by providing evidence to the policymakers about life at the grassroots.

This pioneering move also recognised the fact that older people have much to offer society, because they draw upon a huge wealth of different experiences, expertise and - yes - even sometimes a bit of wisdom.

The continuing crisis in public finances now means that we all have to find imaginative ways of tackling the many issues in Devon - such as health and social care, bus and rail services, and housing and intergenerational relations - that face us. We in Devon Senior Voice are determined to play our part by acting as a kind of social think-tank for new ideas, and our specialist advisory groups play a valuable role here.

Our strength lies in the fact that we are a countywide organisation, with more than 2,000 members in 19 branches across Devon, including Holsworthy. Since April, DSV has been working with the Community Council of Devon, CAB Devon and patient participation groups to promote Healthwatch Devon, the new independent consumer watchdog for health and social care. It will give everyone who uses these services - all of us - a powerful voice. We have been at the forefront, alongside partner organisations such as Rotary and the 

Alzheimer's Society, in trying to deal with the growing scourge of dementia. Since 2008 some 35 memory cafes have been set up, offering    friendly meeting places for those living with dementia and their carers, taking the Devon network to a total of 47.

DSV has held seven dementia awareness days in various market towns, and in Crediton we are now getting involved in the next step, working towards it becoming a dementia-friendly community.

Rural isolation is a blight that undermines the lives of many. This year we held two successful conferences in Crediton and Cullompton that brought together the promoters of imaginative projects - from pubs as community hubs to village computer forums - and influential decision makers from across Mid Devon to create a wider awareness of what is being done and what is possible.

Experts are frequently invited to enlighten us as to the implications of the ever-changing world. Several of our branches hold regular open public Question Times with their MPs, occasions which are often vigorous and entertaining but always useful and informative.

So, do you like the sound of DSV?  If so, we'd love to see you here at the Holsworthy & District branch, which we are in the process of re-activating.  We are warm and sociable - and membership is free.

For further information please contact Margaret Coles on 01409 241634 or email marg211246@aol.com or for Devon Senior Voice write to PO Box 210, Harberton, Totnes, Devon TQ9 9DA or email info@scfd.org.uk or phone 01803 732678 or visit the website www.seniorcouncildevon.org.uk