The midlife future planning course


28 / 01 / 2009

  • SHA region 
  • The organisation
  • What we did and why
  • How we did it
  • The results and next steps
  • Contact details and further information
  • SHA region

    NHS West Midlands

    The organisation

    Sandwell Primary Care Trust (PCT) is based in the borough of Sandwell in the West Midlands. Sandwell has a population of approximately 280000 people across its six towns. The borough serves a large Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) population and is very diverse with high levels of deprivation.

    The PCT employs around 1200 staff it has 62 GP practices and a number of community clinics.

    What we did and why

    Sandwell PCT funds an initiative called Agewell, which enables people over 50 to have a positive voice, so that they can influence policy and services that affect them.

    Within Agewell there are a small number of teams that work in different areas, including:

    • the midlife future planning team, who help people over 50 to plan for their future years;
    • the older peoples champions, this is a peer advocate project covering the six towns in Sandwell;
    • 'Active Sandwell', which enables people over 60 to lead a more healthy and active lifestyle; and
    • community development workers, this is a group of local older people who work with the town forums. They discuss issues and opportunities which have an impact on their quality of life.

    National pre-retirement pilots

    The midlife future planning team runs a course entitled 'the Midlife Future Planning course. The course was developed as a result of information gathered from the national pre-retirement pilots, which took place in 2001-2003. The pilots were funded by the Department of Health and overseen by the Health Development Agency.

    The findings from the pilots highlighted the need for individuals to have access to appropriate information to enable them to make informed lifestyle choices, whether that was to retire or continue working.

    Sandwell was the largest of eight pre-retirement pilot sites. It was jointly managed by 'Agewell' and 'Workwell', a health at work project within the PCT. The aim of the pilot project was to target older workers aged 50-65 in Small to Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) and from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities. The pilot looked at ways to improve the health of men and women over 50 by addressing health inequalities in life expectancy through midlife interventions. To do this the pilot:

    • provided health checks in a number of companies;
    • worked with the Black Country Chamber of Commerce to gain access to local employers and employees; and
    • held focus groups of recently retired people to assess their health and social needs.

    Information gathered from employers and employees, local surveys, discussion and focus groups concluded that:

    • Pre-retirement initiatives were taking place too late. People felt they needed to plan lifestyle changes and have access to appropriate information from a much earlier age to decide whether to retire or continue working.
    • Employers stated that 'loss of worker, loss of skills' was one of the main issues, as most of the industry in the area is engineering, and younger people were not interested in that type of work.
    • Employees stated the reasons to continue working after the retirement age were to keep in contact with other individuals and to remain active and involved. Some also stated the need to continue working due to financial reasons.
    • Some recently retired people said that they felt isolated both mentally and physically after leaving work because they had nothing to replace it with.

    Overall, the findings highlighted the need for better access to services, advice and information on health, finance, leisure and relationships.

    How we did it

    • Working with the PCTs Improving Working Lives (IWL) team, the midlife future planning coordinator looked into the issues around retirement and flexible retirement options for older workers within the PCT.
    • Focus and discussion groups took place with older employees to look at the findings from the pre-retirement work and to discuss how they felt it would benefit them as individuals. The groups concluded that a two-day course would enable people to take in the important and large amount of information and that guest speakers could be invited to present on specific subjects, such as health, finance and physical activity.
    • Some of the members from the focus groups later went on to pilot and evaluate the Midlife Future Planning Course.
    • In the beginning there were resource implications in terms of money to produce the training materials and resources.
    • Buy-in for the course was achieved through the Improving Working Lives (IWL) initiative. They established that there was a need for the course through writing to all employees aged 50 and over and asking if they would be interested in attending. With this information the PCT funded Agewell to deliver the course for its staff and it is now part of the PCTs learning and development programme.

    The results and next steps

    • So far 14 courses have been delivered. Each course is evaluated with a follow up after six months to see whether participants have made any changes.
    • Evaluation of the course from both the employers and employees perspective has been very positive.
    • Agewell also delivers tailor-made midlife future planning courses for other Primary Care Trusts and companies in the private sector. The next steps of this initiative are to deliver the course to a much wider audience outside of Sandwell and the Black Country and to work with the long term unemployed.
    • The key lessons learned of this project are:
      • Many people want to work or have to work after retirement age.
      • The course benefits the employer and leads to discussion between employee and employer about future training needs and retirement options.
      • Remaining both physically and mentally active is very important to many individuals.
      • Giving people informed choices at an earlier age enables them to take control of their future years.

    Contact details and further information

    Contact Monica David or Stuart Munger, Midlife Planning Co-ordinators

    Telephone 0121 525 7605, email: or visit the website at

    Added to website January 2008

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