Age Cymru and the Welsh Senate of Older People held a ‘Question Time’ event in Cardiff today, which was attended by 70 older people.
Hosted by ITV Wales’ Political Editor, Adrian Masters, a panel of politicians from Wales’s four main parties were grilled by older voters ahead of the National Assembly elections on 5 May.
The panel was made up of Plaid Cymru’s Dr Dai Lloyd, the Welsh Liberal Democrats’ Kirsty Williams, Andrew RT Davies from the Welsh Conservative Party and Vaughan Gething of the Welsh Labour Party.
Age Cymru’s Chief Executive, Robert Taylor OBE, opened the event.
He was followed by the film ‘Opportunities – the age manifesto for the National Assembly’, in which older voters speak about the issues they want addressed the by the next Welsh Government.
Audience members then began asking the panel a series of questions.
The first question was about older people’s concessionary bus passes.
This drew a very lively debate with members of the audience and the panel contributing with comments about the need for an integrated public transport service; the need for a concessionary travel pass for older people – covering rail and bus travel; the lack of visibility of digital timetables on bus shelters; and the fact that older people still have to pay for some bus journeys in Wales.
One audience member raised her concerns about some bus drivers driving off before older passengers have a chance to sit down.
The next question covered physical fitness and the Assembly’s work to promote exercise and keep-fit for older people.
This raised comments on the need to protect open spaces – such as playing fields, so that people are able to get out and about; free swimming; health checks for over 50s and the importance of remaining active in retirement.
Some audience members complained that money earmarked for keeping people healthy is often diverted to other areas as local authorities are not obliged to provide leisure facilities.
There was a lively debate on exercise and the need to get some older people more involved in cookery.
Several panel members commented that health and social care spending needs to be restructured and aligned so that there is a central and complementary approach to both areas.
The ensuing debate covered issues such as the Social Care Charging Measure; arrangements to promote independent living for older people; hospital discharge services for older people; dignity for older people in care; stroke services; direct payments and occupational therapists.
A question on the Winter Fuel Allowance led to a series of comments about excess winter deaths; the price of fuel and energy and VAT increases; and the fuel poverty charter.
As the event ended, several audience members took the opportunity to speak privately to the panel of election candidates, who posed for photographs.