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Ageing in Places report

Published on 10 June 2019 08:42 AM

“Seeing the children, and having them here, has given me a reason to live, to keep going. I was very depressed before and I just wanted to die. Now that I see them here, I feel it encourages me to keep going to keep trying.”  

These words from a 92 year old resident of Nightingale nursing home tugged at the heartstrings of a large audience who came to hear about ways of improving relations between people of all ages at a seminar organised by the charity Age UK Lewisham & Southwark on 22 May 2019.

Judith Ish-Horowicz, the founder if the Apples and Honey nursery, enthralled the audience with her account of how the nursery, which is housed within the home, had made a large impact on the lives of the residents. Open five days a week, fifty weeks a year, the 3- and 4-year-olds mix with centenarians and together sing; make things and hug each other.

Both Lewisham and Southwark councils have signed up to the UN sponsored age-friendly network. As Dr Tarsha Finney of the Royal College of Art, who opened the proceedings, pointed out: “While we want to keep ourselves in our homes for as long as possible, we want to stay out of institutional care, we want to be surrounded by familiar streets and rooms, by family and friends. But it's not working.”

She showed how other countries, particularly Switzerland and Germany, were coming up with new ways for older and younger people to live together in co-operative housing and not only mix, but also care for each other.

Jules Pipe, London Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration and Skills, told the participants that the new London Plan, which will be published before the 2020 Mayoral Election, will be full of age-friendly measures. He listed aims to improve transport networks for older people; more accessible housing; better signage; increased fire safety; and of course more lavatories.

In response to a comment from the floor, Flo Eshulomi, the London Assembly member for Lambeth and Southwark, emphasised that different cultures viewed the care of older people differently, and that there was much we could learn from African, Afro-Caribbean, Asian and South American families as well as European.

Chris Best, deputy mayor of Lewisham, also spoke and described how the council encouraged a large number of organisations  in  the borough, including the Positive  Ageing Council, which is an open forum for anyone over 60 who lives, works, learns or volunteers in Lewisham. She made a special point of outlining the ways in which the council tries to reduce instances of isolation and loneliness in Lewisham, as a survey had shown that “there may be over 3000 older people who say they always feel lonely.”

Finally, Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, which represents care providers in the country, concluded with a rousing speech in which he said that “the present system for adult social; care is not fit for purpose.” He advocated a radical rethink of the way in which care for older people is provided and funded.

Over 80% of the housing in which people will live in 2050 has already been built. To ensure that there is accessible, age-friendly housing for older people will mean a huge retro-fitting programme. Similarly, local neighbourhoods will have to be re-thought to provide more communal spaces where different generations can interact.