Sunday's Observer had a double page spread about some research which dispels the myth that older people face a life of decline and things are bleak for all of us as we reach 60 and beyond.
Researchers at the Academy of Medical Sciences are right, many older people are taking the opportunities that better healthcare and healthier lifestyles offer and are running with them - WRVS is all for it. We found the same in a survey we made of 1000 over-65s in Britain this summer - three quarters said life was good, but there's a quarter of older people that would like life to be better and they face barriers.
Our aim is to remove the barriers, and it starts with changing the country's negative outlook on old age. It's so easy to think that it's all downhill after 60, it's a cliche and because we think its true we limit older people in lots of small ways from doing what they want. A good start will be to treat over 65s as the adults they are, stop trying to patronise or worse ignore them - whether you're talking to your mum, your neighbour or a stranger. We've got to change attitudes to old age, that's the challenge for all of us.
Posted by Paul
The Department of Work and Pensions this week released figures showing that, surprise surprise, we're set for a huge rise in pensioners over the next couple of years as 1946/47s coterie of 'baby-boomers' turn 65. By the way, as far as I can see, depending on which set of stats one is looking at; the baby boomer generation stretches from the point at which Operation Barbarossa saw the Nazi's invade Russia (1941) to the beginning of the inexorable decline in quality of the Rolling Stones' output in the early 1970s, which I find a bit wierd, I thought a 'generation' was about 20 years long. Anyway, 'whatever', as folk say nowadays. These new stats, while interesting, are of limited use since we have known about the huge rise in the population of older people for years now. What's more interesting is what we are going to do about it. I've blogged about that too much to repeat myself again - prevention is better than cure and volunteering keeps you fit and healthy is all I'll say this time - but if you check out past blogs you'll get the idea. Enjoy!
I was conducting some online research the other day about how Scottish local authorities go about offering free personal care and social care more broadly to older people. By the way, it's important to remember that those two things are not synonymous, the former is much more about the real personal stuff like hygiene, dressing and mobility whereas the latter can be about things like transport and shopping. Anyway, to cut a very long story short, basing their approach on Scottish Government (SG) guidance - newly fashioned in 2009 after lots of consultation - all local authorities use eligibility criteria to determine who gets services. Because resources are limited, those who are most at critical or substantial risk of harm are prioritised to receive services. That might be logical and fair just now but, as WRVS has pointed out, unless we, as a society, can start to move towards preventative services which mean there are progressively less and less people at that level of risk, we're very soon going to crash mightily into the buffers of unaffordability, with casualties all round.
To be fair to both Scottish central and local government they all seem committed to the idea of 'adopting a strong preventative approach to help avoid rising levels of need' (that's a direct quite from the SG guidance) but it appears that limited resources mean, in fact, that few local authorities if any can commit to providing the extensive preventative services that they would ideally like to. Reading the local authority responses to the the 2009 consultation, some of them seem very pro-prevention indeed. Unfortunately, reviewing their eligibility criteria in 2010, these two examples illustrate the spectrum of the way they are apparently obliged to function (I will spare their blushes and let them remain anonymous):
‘The Health and Social Care Department assessment prioritises assistance to those whose needs have been assessed as being within the Critical and Substantial categories. People whose needs have been assessed in Moderate or Low categories may (my italics) receive help to maintain or develop abilities or to prevent further deterioration.’
‘LOW – you or others are at low risk of harm or loss of independence. For these needs, we will not (my italics) provide services. However, we will offer advice and information about alternative sources of support.’
Let's be clear, I'm not saying this is all local authorities' fault. What I am saying is that, sooner or later, some radical funding decisions need to be made about what money goes to which bit of the public sector and to the voluntary and private sector partners that work with it. With that in mind, here's a telling quote for you from the House of Commons Health Committee Report on NHS Continuing Care from way back in 2005:
“The question of what is health and what is social care is one to which we can find no satisfactory answer, and which our witnesses were similarly unable to explain in meaningful terms."
It only takes a little dot-joining to detect the radical solution that statement might be taken to imply but I'll let you work that one out for yourselves. Happy figuring!