Purpose – This paper aims to examine the role that the co-operative sector can play in responding to the needs and aspirations of older people. In addition, through recounting the Change AGEnts co-operative journey, it seeks to demonstrate that co-operative principles have the potential to reconfigure services and change the existing negative narrative on which much public sector commissioning and provision is based. Design/methodology/approach – Change AGEnts is the legacy organisation that came out of the Better Government for Older People’s Programme (BGOP), 1998-2009. The journey from a government sponsored initiative (Cabinet Office) to an independent co-operative illustrates the opportunities and challenges inherent in taking forward the coalition’s present policy intentions of promoting co-ownership of services, localism and building co-operative communities. Findings – Co-operative approaches empower both professional and older people, through common ownership and mutuality. The experience of forming a co-operative and becoming part of the co-operative movement, has the potential to completely change the relationship between older people and the state. Originality/value – The paper illustrates that deliberation and dialogue has a powerful part to play within the co-operative movement, through increasing the control of older people in policy and practice outcomes.