We must give future generations the gift of healthy ageing
We want to create a society where everyone in England has the best access to services in order to enjoy a good later life through healthy ageing.
Our Associate Director for Healthy Ageing, Dr Alison Giles, talks about the key principles from Ageing Better and Public Health England's healthy ageing consensus statement, which has over 60 signatories.
The climate change movement has long been calling for us to do more to protect the world future generations inherit. But in addition to clean air and sustainable energy, one of the best gifts we can give future generations is an environment that promotes health, wellbeing and independence.
The average age at which people report a health condition or disability that interferes with daily life is just 62. With today’s 65-year-olds set to live well into their 80s, many of us could face nearly two decades in poor health or living with a disability.
This in turn could prevent us from working or volunteering for as long as we want or need to, making it more difficult for us to remain living in our own homes and connected to our communities, and making it harder to get out and about and spend time with the people we love.
In a new YouGov survey of people aged 40-60, 62% said they worry their physical health will affect their ability to be financially secure, 55% worried it could impact how physically active they can be, and 43% were concerned it could affect the kind of home they could live in when they reach 65.
There are small changes we can all make to increase our likelihood of staying healthy for longer, from stopping smoking and reducing alcohol consumption to eating more healthily and being more physically active.
But, just like tackling climate change, many of the necessary changes have to come from the top. Across the public, private and voluntary sectors, action is needed beyond simply encouraging healthy behaviours. That’s because for the poorest among us, disability-free life expectancy shrinks to just 52 years, and studies consistently show that the quality of our jobs, our homes and the environment around us can make a huge difference to our health – and even our life expectancy.
In a new YouGov survey of people aged 40-60, 62% said they worry their physical health will affect their ability to be financially secure.
Today, the Centre for Ageing Better and Public Health England are launching a consensus statement on healthy ageing as a starting point to make England the best place in the world to grow old. More than 60 major public and voluntary organisations like NHS England, Age UK and The Health Foundation have joined us in committing to five key principles:
- Putting prevention first and ensuring timely access to health and social care when needed. This includes calling for population-level policies like using taxation to influence our spending decisions, as well as individual-level services like smoking cessation support.
- Removing barriers and creating more opportunities for older adults to contribute to society. Employers should promote health at work, deliver flexible working, and introduce policies to recruit, develop, promote and retain staff of every age. And there should be more opportunities for people to volunteer and engage with creative, learning and cultural activities.
- Ensuring good homes and communities to help people remain healthy, active and independent. Our woeful housing stock must be improved, and new homes built to be accessible and adaptable. People on low incomes should have access to funds to repair and improve homes, and every community should have accessible transport links, good quality green spaces and good quality services and facilities.
- Narrowing inequalities. Signatories want to ensure everyone has equal access to a great education, good work, a decent home and meaningful social connections, regardless of their wealth or where they live.
- Challenging ageist and negative language, culture and practices. We must offer a realistic, representative picture of later life that values ageing as a positive and recognises the diversity of backgrounds, experience and ambition amongst older people.
The Centre for Ageing Better and Public Health England will work together on these five areas and encourage organisations across society to do more to create a world in which we, our children and grandchildren can all enjoy a long, healthy and disability-free life.