Many older people lead active, fulfilling lives well into what could be considered old age. And, as we have read in the media, many are financially more secure than younger people. But while generational inequity undoubtedly exists, many older people, particularly those who are not well-off financially, still have real and specific challenges.
Age UK has found that for 3.6 million people aged over 65 live alone and may have the TV as their main source of company. The Jo Cox Commission on loneliness found that loneliness cuts across generations, but lack of mobility, loss of friends and social networks, distant family and feeling ignored or invisible can particularly affect older people.
Older people may be more vulnerable to aspects of society that affect us all in different ways: there’s the complexity of the modern world and speed of change. Some may be happy to set up an email account in their 80s, but others are confused by the prospect. As for filling in forms on-line, as is increasingly demanded – don’t all of us find that frustrating? Selling techniques may be aggressive and confusing. There are pressures to change to a cheaper power supplier, for example, but anyone who’s tried that will know there’s a confusing array of tariffs as well as companies and choosing the best for you isn’t simple.
The lack of funding for social care has meant local councils are expected to do more with less, and struggle to meet even their statutory duties. The consequent decline of social services has contributed to the challenges of loneliness, ill health and lack of support older people face.
However, help and support are available. The most obvious is that friends and neighbours remember older people and include them in activities, including helping them in practical ways if they want. But just dropping by can also alleviate loneliness, maybe with something specific to ask so that the person does not feel patronised.
At the community level, you could start a coffee morning for people in your neighbourhood, as informal as possible, where people just drop in and chat for a couple of hours. This has been tried in the High Peak and means that people who don’t often go out get to see their neighbours and have a chat every so often, and that they meet others of all ages.
More formally, Age UK has advice on combatting loneliness and has a befriending service, through which older people can be contacted face to face or by phone, and can be helped with everyday tasks.
For more information about your local befriending service, phone Age UK Derby and Derbyshire 01773 768240.
Age UK also has a huge amount of other practical advice for older people. A lot of this is on the Internet (which obviously may not be very helpful) but there are also shops in New Mills , Glossop and Sheffield where you can pick up information leaflets.
Peaks and Dales Voluntary and Community Services offer many types of support including transport, befriending and home maintenance.
For anyone affected by dementia, whether directly or through friends or family, the Alzheimer’s Society also produces advice via different media and has a drop-in centre in Glossop.
And if anyone needs more detailed advice about specific issues such as managing finances, establishing Power of Attorney or dealing with consumer issues, they can always contact their local Citizens Advice, in person or by phone. There are offices throughout the High Peak, with outreach in doctors’ surgeries, see http://www.ddcab.org.uk/contactdetails.shtml or phone 0300 456 8390.
However, it is clear that major reform is needed of the funding and delivery of social services for older people and others in need. Although successive governments have looked at ways of doing this they have lacked the political will to put their ideas into practice, as discussed in the The Guardian.
The Green Party’s social policies, for social welfare, health, a Universal Basic Income, and housing would help mitigate the challenges faced by many older people. But of key importance is the commitment in the Green Party Political Programme to supporting the infrastructure that enable communities to thrive by embedding kindness in our society:
“Our schools, hospitals, rail links and bus routes aren’t merely services; they are the roots that sustain our society. They are roots that need to be nurtured so that they in turn can nurture us. We envision a country underpinned by well-funded, locally led public services providing care and support for all - a society rooted in kindness.”
Age UK Derby and Derbyshire 01773 768240.
Citizens Advice Bureau http://www.ddcab.org.uk/contactdetails.shtml or phone 0300 456 8390.
Alzheimer's Society 01246 223366 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Peaks and Dales Voluntary and Community Services 01298 23970