The Active at 60 Community Agent programme was a £1m DWP fund that was administered nationally by the Community Development Foundation and forms part of the Government’s response to the challenges an opportunities of an ageing society. Through the use of small grants and development of the Community Agent role, the programme was designed to encourage community groups and volunteers to help people approaching retirement to stay or become more active, in particular those at risk of social isolation and loneliness in later life. Around 460 community groups received grants ranging from £250 to £3,000 during the programme which ran from March 2011 to December 2011.
Research was commissioned to assess the extent to which the programme met its objectives to provide leadership roles for older people in their community, increase and widen the participation of older people in community activities and reduce the risk of people becoming socially isolated in later life. Critically, the research also looked at sustainability beyond the life of the programme and associated funding.
Research involved telephone interviews and online/postal surveys with local funders, community group leaders and those in a Community Agent role, face to face interviews with older people who were involved in activities funded by the programme and analysis of programme management information.
With the proportion of people aged over 50 set to increase to 40 per cent by 2026  promoting active ageing is an essential part of facing the challenges and opportunities of an ageing society. The ‘European Year of Active Ageing’ in 2012  seeks to recognise the contribution to society made by older people and to ensure amongst other things, that older people continue to participate in their communities, pursue their interests and remain socially connected. This in turn reduces the risk of social isolation and loneliness and can improve the physical and mental well-being of older people.
As demonstrated in the Community Agents programme, the role of volunteers and leaders at community level is critical to engage with and encourage older people to participate. Recent research by Demos  examined the role that businesses can also play in supporting older people’s social participation and suggests that voluntary and community organisations can benefit from linking up with businesses.
Learning from the programme will be used as part of the wider Ageing Well legacy which aims to extend its reach to other local decision makers and influencers such as district and parish councils, the voluntary and community sector and other stakeholders. To ensure this happens, DWP is funding two posts to disseminate and embed good practice and learning from the programme, in addition to research reports and materials on the recently launched Ageing Well Legacy website 
Audit Commission (2010). Under Pressure: Tackling the Financial Challenge for Councils of an Ageing Population.
Demos (2012). Ageing Sociably: Businesses can do more to support older people’s social participation.
Ageing Well legacy website at www.local.gov.uk/ageing-well
Knowledge Hub at knowledgehub.local.gov.uk/web/ageingwell