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Investment needed to make communities age friendly, finds survey

Published on 13 March 2020 10:22 AM

Lack of public toilets, hazardous pavements and exclusion from decision making are key issues for older people

Basic local authority facilities such as public toilets, safe pavements, as well as a voice in local decision making, are areas that need action, according to an Age Cymru survey of more than 1,000 older people in Wales between August 2018 and March 2019.

Lack of public toilets

Asked to score local facilities with marks out of ten, public toilets fared worst with a score of just 3.3, followed closely by a voice in decision making with 4.5, and pavements with 4.6.

The lack of public toilet facilities was the key factor for many older people while others said cleanliness, accessibility and limited opening hours were problematic. One respondent said: 'Closure of public toilets is pushing people out of traditional towns.'

Age Cymru's chief executive Victoria Lloyd says: "Generally speaking older people need to use a toilet more often than other age groups so, to engage with their community, they need to be confident that there will be clean and accessible public toilets available whenever they are out and about."

Locked out of decision making

Disappointingly, many older people said their local authority doesn't engage with them when making decisions and plans affecting their local community. Some respondents told the survey that local councils, and other organisations, have become overly reliant on online communications, despite the fact that many older people are not online themselves. This means that the thousands of digitally excluded older people are unlikely to get their views and concerns heard by key decision makers.

Victoria Lloyd says: "It is vitally important that the voices of older people are heard so that local plans can contribute towards creating an age friendly Wales."

Hazardous pavements

Safe pavements are crucial to enabling older people to visit their local towns and villages to buy food, access money and attend medical appointments. However, more than a third of the respondents rated the pavements in their community with a score of just three or less out of ten.

Older people told the survey that hazards such as uneven services, illegally parked cars, and pavements obstructed with bins restricted access for users of wheelchairs and mobility scooters. Others said dog fouling and litter added to the problems.

One respondent told the survey 'As an older person I am concerned about the issues that prevent or limit older people from being involved in their community. Uncoordinated transport, limited access to public toilets, anti-social behaviour, and hazards for those with mobility issues add to the number who feel isolated and lonely.'

High levels of positivity about some services

However, many older people spoke highly of some of the services in their area. Access to local services such as banks and shops, public transport, suitable places to meet, and local health and social services all scored nearly seven out of ten.

Some respondents told the survey that they lived in well serviced, vibrant communities with good access to essential services. One cited the importance of their local library as both a vital source of information and a place to access the internet.

Unsurprisingly, public transport fared better in the main towns and cities compared to rural areas with one respondent commenting that their bus is 'rather like a mobile club with many people knowing each other'.

Many respondents praised their community for providing suitable places to meet, particularly those run by volunteers.

Despite the well documented pressures many respondents praised their local health and social services with one 83 year saying that they feel well cared for. However, many reported difficulty in getting a GP appointment.

Victoria Lloyd says: "It is refreshing to hear that, despite budgetary pressures, local councils are supporting older people in many aspects of their lives. Being able to take part in community life, with good access to local services and facilities is a lifeline for many older people.

"We hope that this report will help councils focus on those areas that need improving. But we also we hope that it will encourage councils to share the good practices that are occurring in our communities, so we can all work together to help create an age friendly Wales."

Copies of the full report are available here: www.agecymru.org.uk/communitycalculator

Paper versions are available by calling the Age Cymru Office on 029 2043 1555.

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