Driving Positive Change
Many aspects of society are holding Britain back from moving up this table – from a deep misunderstanding of what it means to be old, to embedded ageism, to a general lack of focus and understanding of what older people really need. In turn, this impacts the quality of life of many older people, including their health and happiness. Action is needed by everyone to address this, including policymakers, individuals, the media and society.
And it is possible to address these challenges. The following recommendations show how this can be achieved and are based on the findings and research in this report. Taken together, they would make a significant contribution to knitting society back together, unlocking purpose and value in later life and fuelling a social boom of fuller living at both ends of the age spectrum.
As we emerge from the constraints of a global pandemic with a clearer view of the real needs of an ageing population, now is the time for action.
This is McCarthy Stone’s manifesto.
This report has shown that misrepresentation of later life and ageism is rife. This bias must be eradicated and older people deserve to have their voices heard and be fairly represented.
A dedicated Minister for Older People would help address this by ensuring policies are developed and delivered that benefit our ageing population. They would make sure the interests of older people are prioritised at every turn, promoting a more holistic viewpoint and a vital sense check of policies to ensure they serve the needs of those in later life.
This would follow the successful precedent already set by the appointment of a dedicated Minister for Older People in the Scottish Government and an Older People’s Commissioner for Wales.
WE ASK THE GOVERNMENT TO:
Appoint a dedicated Minister for Older People and implement a national strategy for ageing.
This report has also shown that ageism is rife in the media, which is partly responsible for the attitudes held in society. A manifesto, led by Ofcom, the media regulator, which all media outlets would be encouraged to sign, could create a new promise for change in how older people and ‘older people’s issues’ are reported in the media.
This media manifesto would agree to ban derogatory descriptions of over 65s, commit to non-biased reporting on perceived ‘elderly’ issues, promise to reset the balance of coverage on stories pertaining to elderly life, and introduce a new language to describe older people.
WE ASK OFCOM AND THE UK MEDIA TO:
Introduce a media manifesto to promote fair representation of older communities in their coverage.
This report has shown that later life can be a time of purpose, where older people can use their talents and experience to support society as a whole, from volunteering, to helping care for loved ones, to taking up new hobbies. Many older people have rich life experience and skills that do not just switch off when they hit ‘old age’. There’s an imperative to ensure everyone in later life has this opportunity and to draw out and use this talent and experience for the good of us all.
Older employees should be encouraged to continue to provide their expertise and knowledge at work. The growing focus on the make-up of today’s workforces presents an opportunity for the UK to create a more inclusive environment for everyone. So, alongside Gender Pay Gap reporting, there should also be a legal requirement for UK businesses to present annual Age Gap reports showing the ways in which they are encouraging equal opportunities, fair pay and fair treatment across all staff age groups – and the way in which they are harnessing workforce value from older age groups.
WE ASK THE GOVERNMENT, BUSINESS GROUPS AND OTHER ORGANISATIONS TO:
Introduce a new requirement for Age Gap reporting to ensure workforce diversity to implement programmes that maximise the value and expertise of older people in the workplace.
Empowering more older people to feel recognised and valued in the later stages of their careers would help reset perceptions of older people as ‘past their prime’. The loss of older workers is often a ‘brain drain’ as they hold many years of experience and hold significant knowledge. There is a pressing need to do more to maximise and harness the expertise of older people in the workplace and unlock purpose from the later life talent pool.
In terms of employment, there could also be a national ‘KickStart’ scheme for older generations, modelled on the successful KickStart scheme for 18-25 year olds to incentivise businesses to hire more older ‘retired’ people and be rewarded for doing so through National Insurance Contributions (NIC) rebates. Employers could also offer mid to later life ‘workplace MOTs’ for employees to ensure their work life is fit for purpose.
WE ASK THE GOVERNMENT TO:
Introduce a Kickstart scheme for the over 65s, to incentivise businesses to (re)hire and retrain ‘retired’ people who wish to remain in or return to the workplace.
We have seen the value of new digital and IT systems through the COVID-19 pandemic, with many older people locked down but still able to communicate with their loved ones through video conferencing. Yet not all older people have access to this technology, and some even fear it. Enhancing digital skills and access for older generations can help them play a more active role in society and equip them with the skills and competences to return to the workplace in later life, and contribute more widely to society. It can also play a key role in bringing generations together, as seen during the recent COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns.
WE ASK NATIONAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT TO:
Launch new digital education programmes and training, increase access to technology and build better intergenerational understanding and links, with more digital skills training for the most ‘in need’ groups.
Finding ways to utilise the energy and talent of an older talent pool would not only bring more purpose and meaning to people in their later year, it would be a wider force for good for everyone. By rallying the later life talent pool, we can more successfully bridge the gap between generations, providing mutual learnings for both generations and break the ‘us’ and ‘them’ mindset.
WE ASK LOCAL AUTHORITIES AND COMMUNITY AND VOLUNTEERING GROUPS TO:
Rally the later life talent pool by creating a volunteer army of 1 million more older people to support all parts of society. This would complement the 3 million older people who already volunteer on a regular basis.
This report has shown that fitness typically drops off in later life, but this doesn’t need to be the case if the recommendations of Sir Muir Gray CBE are followed. Five more years of independent living for all older people could be achieved with a far-reaching preventative approach to health planning for later life and all it brings.
This can start with the establishment of a national ‘Now Not Later’ focus on prevention, not just cure, that uses the ideas of Sir Muir Gray CBE and stimulates behavioural change much earlier on in life to reduce the likelihood of medical and social care needs when people reach older age.
This includes focus on prevention of common age-related issues such as fitness and obesity. Exercise is the single most important factor to ageing well, so authorities should focus on driving up activity, aiming for 150 minutes of moderate activity a week, where possible, and supporting small positive changes to fitness regimes in later life.
WE ASK THE NHS AND HEALTH GROUPS TO:
Play a greater role in promoting a ‘Now Not Later’ focus to preventative care, focusing on maintaining fitness and health in mid and later life.
Social care policy has also been a focus in recent years. It is recognised that resource is stretched, but the fact there is no plan in place compounds the problem. It is essential the long awaited adult social care white paper is published quickly or the situation will deteriorate further.
There are many good ideas that should be included in this white paper, from regular health checks as recommended by the Elderly Accommodation Counsel, to bringing in more support for family carers where they help older people needing care (perhaps as part of the volunteering army older people), for instance by requiring employers to provide time off from work, similar to paternity or maternity leave.
We also support a more detailed investigation of insurance options for people as they enter mid to later life, to fund any future social care need, as has been rolled out in Japan and Germany.
WE ASK THE GOVERNMENT TO:
Urgently publish its long-awaited social care white paper and ensure a plan is in place to care for our ageing population.
Technology presents a critical opportunity to support our ageing population. First as a tool to facilitate intergenerational connectivity, to break down the common ‘us and them’ mentality and promote better understanding of the diversity of our older communities. And secondly, to enhance care and support services – to make them personalised and meet the needs of the community on a constituency rather than national basis.
Britain is already a world-leading pioneer of preventative technology, with modern advancements in technology and AI playing a key role in supporting our personalised caring needs in later life. The establishment of a dedicated preventative technology fund would encourage research and innovation – and unlock funding in support of technology unicorns who have the potential to become tomorrow’s leaders in this space.
WE ASK THE GOVERNMENT TO:
Establish a dedicated national preventative technology fund to encourage R&D in AI in support of personalised care in later life and position the UK as a global pioneer in preventative technology.
This report has also shown the need to ensure that our homes, towns and cities are age friendly and older people should be allowed to ‘age in place’ to maintain their independence. Yet too often the only option is to live in a house unsuited to ageing, or move to a care home, which is no choice at all.
As Government looks to rebuild and reimagine the high street, there is an unprecedented opportunity to ensure our town centres are fit for older people, who can be central to their revitalisation, providing a shopping and entertainment-based environment that works for older people, areas to sit and relax, and spaces to socialise.
Increasingly, high streets are relying on the ‘grey pound’ as older people use shops and local facilities more than other age groups. At the same time, organisations which rely on volunteers such as libraries, charity shops and community centres also benefit from having more people with free time to get involved.
Our housing stock must be suitable for our ageing population. More accessible housing is needed and the Government’s recent consultation on raising accessibility standards in this area is welcome. There is also the need for more bungalows and specialist accommodation for older people like retirement communities.
The introduction of a ‘Help to Downsize’ package, modelled on the successful ‘Help to Buy’ scheme, could prove a successful way of financially incentivising older people to right size. This could include a stamp duty exemption for people moving into a retirement community, more funding for the Government’s housing delivery agency, Homes England, to fund affordable housing options for older people, and a public information campaign to promote the wider societal benefits of rightsizing and its value to later life financial security.
WE ASK THE GOVERNMENT TO:
Increase accessibility standards of new homes, fund the retrofitting of existing housing stock and encourage the delivery of more retirement communities and affordable housing options for older people.