A lack of public toilets is leaving older people in Wales cut off from society and contributing to their mental and physical health problems.
That’s what Age Cymru told the Health and Social Care Committee’s inquiry into public toilet provision in Wales this morning.
Our Head of Policy and Public Affairs, Graeme Francis, says:
“An adequate public toilet network – one that is clean and open and when people need it, is vital to enable older people to keep their dignity and allow them to take part in their local community life.
“A lack of clean and accessible toilets makes people wary of going out and this leads to problems such as social isolation, loneliness and depression among the older population.
“A lack of toilets is particularly likely to adversely affect older people with 1 in 3 women and 1 in 7 men over 65 in the UK experiencing incontinence.
“Evidence shows that people who are incontinent or need to go to the toilet frequently are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression.”
Age Cymru also told the Committee that behavioural changes that older people make to cope with a lack of toilets – such as cutting down on how much they drink or skipping medication, can harm them physically.
Graeme Francis adds:
“People have told us that in an effort to limit the risk of ‘accidents’ when they are out and about, they actually cut down on their fluid intake.
“This can lead to dehydration, which can in turn cause constipation, urinary tract infections and mental impairment.
“Dehydration is also a significant contributory factor in falls - the main cause of hospitalisation among older people and the leading cause of death from injury in over 75s.
“There is also evidence that people stop taking vital medication, such as water tablets, if they want to leave the house which could make it more difficult to adequately manage health conditions. “
The number of public toilets in Wales has steeply declined in recent years.
The British Toilet Association says that the number of public toilets in the UK has dropped by in excess of 40 per cent in the past decade and evidence in Wales indicates a wide variation in the numbers of toilets available in each local authority.
There is now less than one public toilet for every 10,000 people in the UK.
Find out more about Age Cymru campaigns.