Five transformational changes for good later lives
In less than 20 years, over 14 million people will be over 65. It's crucial that we create change now to ensure that no one misses out on a good later life.
In this blog our Chief Executive, Carole Easton, looks forward to the year ahead and outlines what issues must be tackled in order to improve the experience of ageing for everyone.
What struck me most in my first six months as Chief Executive of Ageing Better is how much needs to change for older people in England. We need to shine a bright light on the stark realities of the lives of millions of older people. We must listen to their voices and provide leadership so that everyone can expect to lead a good later life.
I’ve been shocked at the widening gaps in wealth and health among those in their 50s and 60s. Over 2 million pensioners are in relative poverty, with people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups much more likely than others to be the poorest. Yet we’ve seen the triple lock protection on pensions frozen.
More than 2 million people aged over 55 are living in a home that endangers their health or wellbeing. But there's no strategy to improve our old and leaky housing stock. And we continue to build homes that meet only basic accessibility requirements and that can’t be easily adapted to changing needs as we grow older. Every year thousands of people die because they are too cold; every year tens of thousands of people have falls that could be prevented in their own homes.
As of last year, only 42% of men and 31% of women were still working at 65 years old. Previous progress in increasing the numbers of older workers in employment is being swept away as large numbers leave the labour market for good due to age discrimination and a lack of tailored employment support to find work.
At Ageing Better we're working to tackle these issues through building the evidence, listening to older people and developing and testing new approaches with our local partners and the UK Network of Age Friendly Communities.
Here are five areas where I want to see change now:
1. The establishment of an Older People’s Commissioner for England
The establishment of an Older People’s Commissioner for England to promote the rights and interests and contribution of older people. The Commissioner will promote the voices of ageing and older people and scrutinise and influence policy and legislation. The government’s approach to the ageing society should be set out in a cross-government strategy.
2. Great jobs and workplaces for older workers
Investment in tailored employment support and training across the life course equips older jobseekers to remain in the labour market as long as they want to. Managing health conditions and providing care for loved ones too often result in older workers being pushed out of work, so new legislation is urgently needed to give new workplace rights to carers and expand flexible working. This must be accompanied by a cultural shift among employers to end discrimination in recruitment and create age-friendly workplaces.
3. Support to future proof our homes
The development of a Good Home Agency in every area will provide a hub where everyone can access practical and financial support with repairs, energy efficiency and ways of making their homes safe for later life. This must also include financial help for people on lower incomes. We must also bring an end to the building of unsuitable homes with changes to building regulations that require higher standards of accessibility in all new homes.
4. A secure retirement for all
Prospects for old age are worse than 20 years ago – 2.6 million people aged 50-69 now are likely to experience an old age marred by multiple and chronic problems. People from BAME backgrounds are at particular risk.
We must act to ensure a secure retirement for future generations by reinstating the triple lock. As consideration of a further increase in state pension age gets underway, the social security system must recognise the huge inequalities experienced in later life often due to caring responsibilities and poor health.
5. A growing movement against ageism
We're working with communities, institutions, and individuals to eradicate the harmful discrimination, prejudice and stereotypes of older people which are pervasive in our society and institutions, and which is also turned inward against ourselves.
In less than 20 years, one in four of us will be over 65. That’s over 14 million people. We need a plan for today to ensure that no-one misses out on a good later life.