It’s now a few months since John Church became only Age Action’s third CEO in the organisation’s 25 year history. We sat down with him to find out a little more about the man now leading the country’s main ageing organisation
1. Can you start off by telling us a little about your background before you joined Age Action?
Well before joining Age Action Ireland I spent over 16 years in the private sector during very different times than we see now. I enjoyed my early career start with the Bank of Ireland Group before getting my real break with the Coca Cola Company, cutting my teeth in the tough commercial world of food and drink retailing.
My move to become Commercial Director with the Red Bull distributor was a creative and fun time and it’s also where I started to get real experience of managing a lot of people.
Bringing all this commercial experience to Arthritis Ireland in 2005 helped us to make a real impact on real people’s lives over a 12 year period and I have to say that gave me more satisfaction than anything before it.
2. Do you think your time with Arthritis Ireland helps you understand the issues affecting older people and the wider charity sector?
Absolutely, without it I don’t think I would be able to fully appreciate the trials and tribulations, as well as the joys that are often ignored, of growing older.
Of course, I had the pleasure of helping families and young children with arthritis to live better lives as well, but the largest proportion of our audience was older people.
The charity sector is facing very different challenges now than when I joined in 2005, with new regulations, governance codes and data protection laws challenging all of us. I’m really encouraged to see that Age Action has taken the lead in many of these and taken the responsibility to ensure we are transparent and accountable.
3. You’ve been here a few months now, what have been your first impressions?
I think my first impression has been the hard working nature and commitment of the staff to the cause, which is an important starting point.
In our Care & Repair and Getting Started programmes we have some absolute gems of services that are helping countless older people every day.
I was well aware of the excellent reputation we had for our advocacy work but I’m now also beginning to appreciate the strong supportive community we have in our volunteers such as the Glór groups, our knitters and the U3A network, which is a real asset to the organisation.
4. What do you see as your priorities for Age Action over the next couple of years?
Well, one of our key priorities is no different to the hundreds of other charities out there, and that’s raising unrestricted income to expand our services.
We have made some good inroads in our fundraising activities and grown our number of stores over the last year. I think there are also real opportunities to engage more with corporate partners and show them the fantastic work we’re doing.
With an ageing population, however, we must continue to ensure we are still relevant and over the coming months we will be preparing ourselves to ensure we do this.
5. And finally, what do you like to do when you’re not running Age Action?
I’ve always been a keen sports fan and used to play rugby to a competitive level but these days I just watch in awe! I’ve recently taken up Triathlon and find it’s fantastic for all round fitness so I’ve signed up for the Half-Ironman next year in Dublin.
But to be honest it’s spending time with my five sons that’s certainly the most enjoyable and rewarding time of all.