More than a third of people aged 65 years and over (nearly 4 million) believe Britain has become a worse place to live over the past 12 months, according to new research for Age UK
The findings are released as the Charity publishes its new Ambition for the next Government Inspired and informed by the views of older people from across the country, the report presents the Charity’s priorities and calls for Government action to transform Britain into a great place to grow older for everyone by the end of the next Parliament in 2020.
PRIORITY 1: Quality health and care
New findings for the Charity reveal that nearly three quarters (71%) of older people said poor standards of care and support – in care homes or their own homes – make them feel that the government treats older people badly. [iv].
Between 2005/06 and 2013/14, spending on older people’s social care was reduced by 18 per cent while at the same time the number of people aged 65 and over increased by 15.6 per cent[v]. The number of older people receiving social care as a proportion of all, has dropped by 40 per cent from 2005/6 to 2013/14v.
That’s why Age UK is calling for the new Government to plug the funding gaps in health and social care, and give older people with multiple long term health problems a ‘coordinator’ to ensure they receive the joined up health and social care they need.
PRIORITY 2: Enough money
The new research found that one of the biggest worries for the over-65s is paying for energy to heat their home (39%), closely followed by the general cost of living (32%) and the cost of food (24%). Almost one in five (19%) reported feeling worse off financially compared to this time last year[vi].
With 1.6 million older people still living below the poverty line[vii] and many more only just getting by, affording daily essentials remains a challenge for millions of pensioners living on low fixed incomes. According to Government statistics nearly a million pensioners (9%) would be unable to replace a cooker if it broke down, and one in eight (1.25million) over-65s couldn’t pay an unexpected £200 bill[viii].
In its new report Age UK is calling for pensioner poverty to be halved by 2020 and action so all older people eligible for extra financial help due to low income actually receive it – at present about 1 in 3 don’t[ix]. The Charity is also calling for the ‘triple lock’ to be put into law now, to ensure the state pension maintains its value, giving more financial security for this and future generations.
PRIORITY 3: Safe and comfortable at home
At present only 3% of housing in England is accessible to people with restricted mobility[x] and nearly a million older people are living in fuel poverty[xi]. The Charity believes that all older people should be able to live safely and with dignity in good quality, warm, comfortable housing.
In its new report, Age UK is calling for a much wider range of affordable housing options for older people by 2020 and long term investment in an ambitious energy efficiency programme to help keep them safe and well through the winter[xii]. And as an immediate step Age UK wants all new housing to be built to ‘lifetime’ home standards so it can be easily adapted for people with reduced mobility
PRIORITY 4: Active communities
New findings show that among the 50+ age group, 19 per cent are worried about losing their jobs and income over the next six months[xiii].
Older people contribute a massive £61 billion to the economy each year through work, caring and volunteering[xiv], but barriers such as ageism and digital exclusion can prevent many from enjoying a fulfilling, independent later life. Getting back into employment after losing a job is especially tough for the over 50s; 47% of over 50’s who are unemployed have been out of work for a year or more, the highest proportion for any age group[xv].
Age UK wants to see long term unemployment among older workers halved by 2020, and every older person able to access essential services, including banking, whether they are online or not. As an immediate step the Charity is calling for the next Government to improve job support and training opportunities for the unemployed over 50s.
PRIORITY 5: Feeling well
We are living longer but often with disability and long-term health conditions, and dementia and loneliness are big and growing threats to older people’s wellbeing. Recent research for Age UK found that around a million (10%) older people are ‘chronically lonely’ at any given time in the UK, increasing their risk of mental and physical illness[xvi].
By 2020 the Charity wants all public and essential private services like banks and post offices to be ‘dementia friendly’, plus concerted local action to prevent and tackle loneliness. As an immediate step the Charity wants the next Government to fund a public health campaign on how to stay fit and well in later life.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: “We are not surprised that a third of over-65s in our research, equivalent to some 4 million older people overall, think Britain has become a worse place to live during the last year. Easy headlines about a fortunate minority living on good incomes and in sound health should not blind us to the reality facing considerably more people in their 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond, for whom life is not nearly so rosy and the future a source of constant concern.
'Age UK wants the next Government to be ambitious and aspire to transform this country into ’a great place to grow older’ for every older person today and tomorrow. And with the right policies, like those we propose in our new report, we think it can be done – not straight away we accept, but by the end of the next Parliament, if the political leadership is there and a good start is made.
'Age UK’s top priority for the next Government, bar none, is action to plug the growing social care funding gap. The two big social care media stories in the last week have been about 5 minute care visits and official advice to families considering putting cameras in care homes to try to protect loved ones. Nothing could demonstrate more powerfully what a sorry state social care is now in – despite the efforts of many dedicated frontline staff. Addressing the funding shortfall in social care would do more to improve older people’s lives than any other single action the next Government could take.
'If we want to create a society that gives older people the dignity, respect and care they need and deserve the next Government will need to tackle some entrenched problems, such as fuel poverty and the lack of suitable housing for an ageing population, as well as the state of social care, and implement long-lasting solutions.
'Our ambition is to make Britain a great place to grow older by 2020 and with imagination and political will we believe it can be achieved.'
The Charity toured the country with the Age UK sofa to film older people about what they think will make the UK a great place to grow older. To hear their views and add their own people can visit www.ageuk.org.ukvotelaterlife.