Following recent media focus on inadequate hospital care for older people, the crisis in social care, and the delay in the implementation of age discrimination legislation, Age UK is calling on the Government to create a new visionary framework for ageing to enable us all to prepare better for later life.
Age UK believes that the unprecedented opportunities created by longer life expectancy also present the country with challenges that must be met with strong leadership and vision.
The new framework should provide older people with protection and security whilst enabling them to fulfil their potential. It must be backed up with support from business, which needs to adapt to the reality of both older workers and older consumers.
Age UK’s figures show that older people in the UK are now more diverse than ever in terms of income, ethnic mix, health, needs and aspirations. Increasing life expectancy is leading many individuals to re-evaluate their expectations of later life, but businesses and government are not adapting quickly enough.
For example, the over-65s market is worth £109 billion a year yet older people are often unable to find products that meet their needs.
Increasing life expectancy presents benefits that could be missed
Unless both public and private sector leaders embrace these demographic changes, Age UK fears that the benefits stemming from increasing life expectancy could be ignored as the country fails to adapt.
Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General of Age UK said, 'We can’t afford to keep our heads in the sand over one of the biggest challenges we face as a nation – our ageing population. We need to be better prepared as individuals, in government and in the private sector if we are to make the changes we need.
'Increasing life expectancy is one of the great triumphs of medical and social progress. We now need to work to ensure that those extra years of life are as fulfilling as possible for older people. To do this we need, as a society, to jettison traditional views of what life should be after 65 without losing sight that many older people need increasing care and support in their later years.
'The government’s abolition of the mandatory retirement age and introduction of automatic enrolment into workplace pensions are all moves in the right direction, but we can’t afford to take our foot off the pedal if we want to create a society that both cares for and makes the most of the potential of its older people.'
3.3 million households over 60 are in fuel poverty
Age UK’s call comes in its Agenda for Later Life 2012 report which outlines the charity’s calls to action and also presents a unique 360 degree look at what life is like for older people in austerity Britain - from health, to income, discrimination, housing, transport and financial services.
While the latest figures show older people are now more diverse than ever, many are united by struggling to cope with the rising cost of living and fear what the future may hold for them.
The statistics show:
- 3.3 million households aged over 60 in England are in fuel poverty
- There are 1.8 million older people living in poverty (I6% of all people over current state pension age)
- Over 1 million aged over 65 are malnourished
- There is a rising gap in life expectancy for men between the best and worst local authorities in England
- 16% of people aged over 65 say it’s difficult to get to their nearest supermarket
- 15% of people aged over 65 say it’s difficult to get to their GP
- 24% of people who say it’s difficult to get to their bank
- 61% of people in the UK think that age discrimination is widespread (up from 48%)
- 31% of people aged 65-74 volunteer at least once a month
- There are 1.41million people aged over 85 in the UK
The Government has delayed a ban on age discrimination
Age UK's Agenda for Later Life 2012 report comes in the wake of the Government’s recent surprise announcement that ground-breaking legislation to ban age discrimination in goods and services, including the NHS and the provision of social care, has been delayed for at least another six months sending a worrying message about its commitment to fighting prejudice against older people.
The report is being launched at the Agenda for Later Life 2012 conference at the Victoria Park Plaza hotel in London on 8 March. Speakers include:
- Martin Wheatley of the new Financial Conduct Authority,
- Professor Alan Walker of the New Dynamics of Ageing programme at the University of Sheffield, and
- Jo Ann Jenkins of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).