The Cancer, Older People and Advocacy (COPA) service is a partnership programme between OPAAL, the Older People’s Advocacy Alliance, and Macmillan Cancer Support. Funded by Macmillan and the Big Lottery Fund, peer advocates walk side-by-side people age 50+ affected by cancer, every step of the way, providing whatever support they need. They aim to be the voice of the older person, are non-judgemental, and make sure those they support are heard and their views and opinions are acted upon.
The COPA programme is complemented by OPAAL’s Department of Health funded Older People’s Cancer Voices project; it’s about amplifying the voices of older people affected by cancer, bringing advocacy to life through the stories of older people who have accessed it, and those volunteers involved in its provision. I’ve been leading this project for 18 months and we’ve tried to give older people access to a wide range of tools to support them to share their experiences. I’m really excited about the films we are working on with older people. Bringing their stories to life and seeing advocacy partnerships on screen draws a focus to the many benefits of advocacy, highlights the impact of cancer for older people and shows the strength of those partnerships.
We work with vulnerable client groups and this has been our first foray into filming one to one with advocates and their advocacy partners. We wanted to be brave about telling these stories and not shy away from difficult topics, working alongside older people to bring these issues to light sensitively.
Mike’s Story, recently released on our YouTube channel, highlights some of the many issues advocates support older people affected by cancer with. Mike talks about the impact of his cancer diagnosis, how his life was taken over by the thought of cancer, and how things changed for him when he was introduced to Bob, his volunteer peer advocate.