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Old age concerns everyone in East Lancashire
Statistics predict that a third of babies born in the UK this week will live to be 100. In part two of his series on people living to 100, Bill Jacobs looks at the challenges this poses . . .
We all want to live healthily at home when our days of work are over.
However, that does not happen by chance and many will need public services to ensure their later years are not days of decline and depression.
How that is achieved and who pays are moving rapidly up the political agenda.
Savings for old age and pension provision concern Blackburn MP Jack Straw.
The 66-year-old said: “These are major issues for government, employers and individuals. My generation have been generously treated but we need to look to the future, which is why I support raising the state pension age.”
Blackburn with Darwen Age UK chairman Ian Woolley, aged 80, said: “The issue of people saving for old age is a huge one. There may not be enough young people to pay for pensions. Individuals and government need to think carefully about income in old age.”
He is also concerned about public transport as more older people cannot drive.
Nigel Eggleton, marketing director for Lancashire United, accepts bus operators must provide accessible buses and services tailored to older passengers.
He worries about the future of free travel passes and where old people’s accommodation is sited. He said: “There have been sheltered housing schemes built miles from a bus route. Dial-a-ride schemes to old people’s front doors can be an answer, but can councils pay for them?”
Lancashire county council adult care director Richard Jones said: “Loneliness and isolation can be a big problem for older people living on their own. Sometimes it’s about neighbours popping in to see them.”
Early diagnosis and treatment of dementia is another area Mr Jones wants a growing focus on.
Meg Davey, of East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “The challenge is to develop services enabling older people to stay active, healthy and happier for longer.
“Improvements include the Trust’s dementia strategy. We invest in older people services that embody fundamental principles, promoting quality of life, independence, dignity and right to make care choices.”
Blackburn with Darwen Council’s adult care boss Mohammed Khan said: “More and more people living longer provides councils a challenge made more difficult because of the painful cuts. We need to change the way we provide services now.
“We have invested in new technology such as telecare and telehealth, helping residents stay in their own homes longer.
“We need to make sure there is high quality housing for older people in the borough.”
Jack Straw summed up: “There’s nothing scary about an ageing population – who doesn’t want their partners, their children, to live as long as possible?
“What’s key is how healthy folk are. If they’re fit and active, they’re no ‘burden’ on the taxpayer or the NHS, but there will be a big bill for chronic illnesses.
“Some of those come out of the blue, but individuals can help themselves through their own life-style choices. Taking exercise, fighting flab, not smoking, drinking moderately can make a big difference to coping with millions in late old age.”
- Loneliness/isolation: As more people live longer, some will not have families around. Lack of mobility can leave those on the own at risk of falls, failure to eat properly, and depression.
- Public Transport: People over 80 may be unable to drive and far from bus routes. Getting them out to shop and socialise is a problem accessible vehicles, free travel passes and changing bus routes may not answer. Dial-a-ride services to their front door can be a solution, but a costly one.
- Pensions/saving for old age: The Government has commissioned two major reports into provision and the state pension age is to rise rapidly. Ensuring people have income in old age is a massive headache with government and employers worried about who pays the bill to ensure living to 100 doesn’t mean 20 years of poverty.
- NHS services for an ageing population: Provide health care for a population increasingly afflicted with dementia, arthritis, hearing and vision impairment and other chronic age-related conditions is another challenge. The cost of hospital care and ensuring elderly patients are treated with dignity are growing concerns for NHS planners.
- Care at home: Everyone agrees the best place for the elderly is their own home. That requires adaptations, proper homecare services, emergency alarms, and often just someone to go and visit. Old people don’t want to see their savings emptied and houses remortgaged before they die.
Local government services: Tailoring services to the needs of the ageing often falls on councils strapped for cash. Care services, dial-a-ride buses, home helps and residential care often lands on them. Old people no longer end up in standard council homes but paying for services to keep people at home or finding and financing sheltered housing or residential accommodation are increasingly difficult questions for town hall bosses.
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