Ageing Better’s Santa Wish List
This Christmas, our Ageing Better experts are not asking Santa for a Stretch Armstong, a Cabbage Patch Doll or a Thunderbirds Tracey Island. Instead, we’re asking St Nicholas to sprinkle some of his yuletide magic to bring about lasting societal change in 2024.
It is that time of year when children, and big children, write out their letters to Santa in the hope they will be rewarded for their good behaviour over the past year.
Our civically-minded experts are foregoing their usual present requests this year in the hope that Santa can bring something for all to enjoy in 2024.
Claire Everett, Head of Anti-ageism Campaign:
“Ageism is the prejudice that’s hidden in plain sight. We see and hear casual ageism every day in the media, on TV, at work, in pubs, on social media, in family conversations.
“It’s often dismissed as being harmless, but research shows that ageist beliefs can be incredibly damaging for us as individuals and for wider society. They affect how we think about and act towards other people - how we talk to older people and how we talk about them, how we treat older people in our workplaces, our communities, and even in health settings.
“They become a self-fulfilling prophecy, affecting our self-esteem and what we think we are capable or worthy of as we get older.
“It doesn’t have to be this way. Here’s hoping that 2024 is the year that ageism is finally taken seriously as we launch our new Age Without Limits campaign.”
Dr Emily Andrews, Deputy Director for Work:
“My Christmas wish is for the age lens to get applied to every health and work initiative up and down the land. How will we make sure older workers don’t get left behind? That’s the question I want everyone looking at employment support for with disabilities or long-term health conditions to ask themselves next year.
“The rising state pension age is creating a new financial imperative for people in their mid-60s to stay in work, but healthy life expectancy amongst the poorest people in our society is 52. Ill-health is pushing large numbers of people – of all ages – out of the workplace, but the majority of those people are aged 50 and over.
“But our back-to-work support for people facing health barriers to employment does not work for this group. On the government’s Work and Health programme, fewer than one in five people age 60+ get a job within two years. My Christmas wish is for more people to get worried about this stat – and for the government to make sure their new initiatives don’t repeat the same failures.”
Natalie Turner, Deputy Director for Localities:
“My Christmas wish is for every place in the country to commit to becoming an age-friendly community, and a great place to grow old.
“Our recent two day in-person Age-friendly Communities Conference, which saw more than 80 delegates from 53 localities come together, only reaffirmed to me the tremendous work going on up and down the country to make communities a better place to age.
“Almost 25 million people now live in an Age-friendly Community, including places like Greater Manchester and Cardiff. My only hope for 2024 is that more and more people feel the benefit of this tremendous work that is helping improve later life for so many.
“If I could have two Christmas wishes, then I would also ask Santa for age to be considered and included in local strategies, with older people given a voice in planning what happens in their neighbourhoods, as a matter of course.
“Too often we build communities which are not age-friendly because of the exclusion of older people and their needs from the planning process. It would be amazing if the work of some local authorities who have specific policies in place to deliver age-friendly homes could become the norm across the sector.
“Santa is rumoured to be more than 1,700-years-old so I’m sure he would appreciate some of the benefits of living in an Age-friendly Community.”
Holly Holder, Deputy Director for Homes:
“Next year will see one of the toughest years for older people already struggling to pay for energy bills and food.
“Experts at National Energy Action suggest that 6.5 million people will be in fuel poverty in January; an increase of 2 million people in the last two years.
“And it’s not just cold homes that are a problem: millions are living with hazards that can result in lengthy hospital stays, irreversible care needs and sometimes even death.
“My Christmas wish is that the government commits to creating a cross-departmental, national strategy to eradicate poor quality homes for people of all ages and tenures.
“Introducing this type of initiative would reduce our carbon emissions, boost the economy and reduce demand for public services. “More importantly, we would be creating homes for people that are places of safety, warmth and dignity.”