This paper examines the experience of the two year action research programme Better Government for Older People within the wider context of an ambition to create ‘quality in ageing’. It argues that within the limits of the originating aims and values of the Better Government for Older People a great deal has been achieved to improve services for older people, and to encourage and recognise the direct contributions of senior citizens within 28 pilot areas and wider Networks of local authorities across the UK. However, the author suggests that such service improvements and experiments in engagement are unlikely to be sustained and developed without a wider commitment by central and local Government to the development of strategies for an ageing population.The paper describes the antecedents of the Better Government for Older People programme, its structure and operational practices. It goes on to examine the programme's achievements against its stated aims and values, seeking to identify what still needs to be achieved. In the final section it seeks to explore the barriers to realising the ambitions of quality in ageing, arguing that ageism coupled with political and professional inertia are major constraints. In conclusion it argues that legislation is likely to be a pre‐requisite for the cultural and organisational shift required in order to move to a system based on older people as citizens rather than service recipients.
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