Who speaks up for older people?

11 December 2012

Life made easy for Assisted Living customers

Older people have all the houses, keep younger people out of jobs and use up the healthcare budget!

Not my views, but over the last week or so, I’ve found myself defending the ‘corner’ for older people over a new report from the ‘Intergenerational Foundation’ – an organisation whose stance is that the selfishness of older generations means that the young get a raw deal. You can read my views on this in the Guardian.

I do worry that the current economic situation is feeding a groundswell of opinion that will see generations at odds with each other when – in reality – we all need to work together to fight social injustices. Goodness knows, there are enough to fight.

So how can we ensure this happens? Well there are organisations out there trying to make a difference and, I’m delighted to say, they’re run by older people themselves. In fact, after reading this, you might feel like getting involved yourself…

These days, I spend a day or so a week away from my day job as a writer chairing the South West Regional Forum on Ageing. There are nine similar bodies all around England. We consult regularly with organisations – such as local authorities, health trusts, police, fire, WRVS and so on – whose services impact upon the lives of older people.

"By telling them what works, and what doesn’t, from an older person’s perspective – we can make their services more effective. In the next few months alone we’re planning regional events on independent living, assistive technology and active ageing... a chance to share ideas and harness experience."

We also take our views up to Whitehall and meet regularly with Government Ministers who (believe it or not) actually value our input. In tough times, everyone recognises that there is probably no more money. But taking a more joined up approach, preventing rather than curing, and spending resources where they will have the most good, will benefit everyone - including the Government and taxpayers.

All good stuff, but there’s a sting in the tale. We depend upon older people’s groups to provide knowledgeable, committed representatives to bring along the views of their members. But many groups are struggling as the people that have led them over the years drop by the wayside. They need ‘fresh blood’ to invigorate them.

They often act as the hubs of local communities too – providing much needed volunteer transport and ensuring the vulnerable are not left isolated.

If YOU or someone you know wants to make an important contribution, why not join your local older people’s group. And if there isn’t one available, start one up!

Tony Watts

Chairman of the South West Forum on Ageing

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