Help older people be as well as they can be
End Pensioner Poverty
It is a national scandal that so many pensioners live in poverty and little to no progress has been made on reducing this in recent years. More than 120,000 pensioners in Scotland live in persistent poverty and 150,000 in relative poverty after housing costs.
While some of the major levers to reducing this sit with the UK Government, there is more which can be done in Scotland to help people to boost their income, reduce their bills and work to ensure everyone is able to access every penny of the financial support, such as Pension Credit, to which they are entitled.
There needs to be more focus on what can be done in Scotland by our government, local authorities and public services to end pensioner poverty.
Strengthen social security
With 11 benefits in the process of being devolved, the next Scottish Government has an opportunity to do things differently and make social security fairer for older people. We welcome the principles of dignity and respect being at the forefront of Scotland’s new social security system, but we need to see action to ensure older people don’t miss out on their entitlements and call on the next government to use innovative measures to encourage greater take up of all social security support.
Spotlight: Social Care
Social care is about enabling people to live full and independent lives and should be regarded as a valuable investment in the nation. It must be given the full resources and status it needs to deliver for everyone who uses it. Now is the time to be bold on reform.
We need to make sure that the benefits of health and social care integration can be fully realised, allowing more person-centred care to be delivered without the long waits many have faced. Ready availability of social care options and support in the community would help to reduce the sky-high rates of delayed discharge from hospital that were experienced before the pandemic.
It’s clear that our social care system needs increased financial investment in order to ensure equity of access, choice, human rights and people at its heart. There should be considerable changes to charging arrangements such as removing fees for day care services, improved opportunities and conditions for staff, and more government responsibility and accountability.
It is also essential we recognise that unpaid carers provide immeasurable value to those they care for, the social care system and society. They are a credit to the country, but they need much more support such as a right to respite, training, access to financial assistance, employment support and flexibility.
Older people have told us that they support the creation of a National Care Service. The next Scottish Government should establish this and embrace the recommendations of the recent independent review into adult social care, ensuring that individual choice remains at its heart.
Greater financial inclusion
The rapid rate of bank branch and free-to-use cash machine closures across Scotland is alarming. We are concerned that banks are not properly considering the needs of the current and future population of older people.
We know that many older people, particularly those on low and fixed incomes or a limited budget, prefer to use cash as a means of effective budgeting. Large numbers of older people are not able to use digital banking options as they do not use the internet or they simply cannot afford the devices and data connection necessary to do so.
Restricting older people’s ability to access their finances without a further cost or conducting transactions in a safe environment will have a negative impact on their day-to-day lives.
We believe these changes will have the biggest impact on those who can least afford it.
Improve mental health support
Good mental health is as important in later life as it is at any other time of life but too often older people can feel that their concerns or needs are not met. It is important that older people have good access to mental health support, quick diagnosis and transitions from adult to older adult services are seamless with an increase in provision.
Death by suicide is rising in older age groups. Tragically, 22% of suicides in 2019 were people aged between 45 and 54 and 16% were between 55 and 64.
Reduce health inequalities
The decrease in our healthy life expectancy is disappointing and comes after overall life expectancy has stalled. We must redouble efforts to address this. The gap between people in the most and least deprived areas is staggeringly high and shows that much more needs to be done to reduce poverty and increase people’s quality of life.
Preventing ill health in the first instance needs more of a focus and investment especially as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has not yet been realised.
Not only is this important for our nation’s health in the short term, but also in the long term as Scotland’s rapidly ageing population, who will on average be spending a greater proportion of their life in poor health, will likely need more support from the NHS and social care. We want to see Scotland as the best place to grow older and increasing healthy life expectancy is part of this.
Tackle Fuel Poverty
Fuel Poverty affects one in four households in Scotland, with four in ten pensioner couples saying they have difficulty paying their energy bills and six in ten single pensioner households struggling to pay their energy bills.
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, and particularly during periods of lockdown, people have had to spend significant amounts of their time at home which has led to increased domestic energy use. For many this will be entirely unaffordable and could push them into fuel poverty.
There should be more funding and availability of energy efficiency schemes to help support homeowners and landlords drive down domestic energy costs and protect the environment. The organisations and schemes available to help should be widely publicised in a long-term national campaign.
Spotlight: Housing and communities
People should be able to live independently and well in their own home for as long as possible. The building quality, its accessibility, energy efficiency, available space, and access to green space, greatly influences how well people manage at home as they get older.
Housing needs to be recognised as part of the health and social care landscape, as it is critical to a person’s wellbeing.
We need to massively increase the availability of accessible, affordable and adaptable homes across Scotland. Too many modern homes are built to very restrictive minimum accessibility standards. We need to see much more embedding of age-friendly design and recognise that homes built to higher accessibility standards are beneficial to people of all ages, life stages and needs.
To support an ageing population, Scotland needs to ensure its housing stock is not only fit for the future but is able to meet the needs of older and disabled people now. It is important to have a broad mix of types of homes being built, including single level, step free and with garden space, and maximising opportunities in existing communities.
More intergenerational living options and creating age-friendly communities across Scotland would be hugely positive.
Support Care and Repair
Care and repair services support older and disabled people to live safely, independently, and well in their own home but there is disparity in their availability across Scotland. Every local authority should have a funded care and repair service so that older and disabled people would have access to the same type of trusted service no matter where they live.
Boost public transport
Public transport is vital to the independence and wellbeing of older people. It is also a crucial tool for tackling loneliness and isolation, climate change and connecting communities. Improving the provision of public transport, especially in non urban areas, is important as issues of reliability, frequency and scale of network can be a challenge. We believe the age eligibility should remain at 60 for older people and community transport options should be better supported and expanded.
Tackle climate change
Older people care deeply about the environment and the action we all need to take to mitigate climate change. This is both for future generations and the impact it has on lives and our planet now.
The Scottish Government should seek to engage with older people on the action that can be taken to protect our environment, recognising the wealth of experience that older people have to share.
Increase availability of public toilets
We need to increase, rather than reduce the number of public toilets across Scotland. Older people tell us that the availability of clean, accessible public toilets is essential to them. They help older people with certain medical conditions and incontinence to live as normal a life as possible, being able to travel and interact with the community and local economy.
For many, if there is no provision for public toilets, they do not feel comfortable leaving their home meaning less socialising, less shopping, difficulty attending medical appointments, and an increase in loneliness and social isolation.
More sport for older people
Almost half of adults don’t take part in regular sporting activity and poverty is now the main barrier to participation in Scotland.
There are no existing national or sport’s governing body strategies specifically targeting participation for the older age groups.
Regardless of the sport a person enjoys or participates in, they should have the opportunity to be involved in one way or another throughout their life.
We believe that with some simple development work and investment every team sport has the potential to have a walking version available.
Walking sports can help connect older people to others with a shared interest while having a positive impact on their health. These connections can develop into long term friendships which foster regular social interaction off the field.
Across Scotland, many facilities at sports clubs are unused for much of the week. There is a significant opportunity to use clubhouses for sporting reminiscence sessions and gentler physical activities and for walking sports teams to use the existing infrastructure such as pitches, changing rooms and equipment for training.
Establishing ‘Older People’s Sports Clubs’ would help people recovery from the damaging effects of the lockdown by improving their physical fitness, mental wellbeing and reconnecting them to the sports they loved.
The next Scottish Government should:
• Reform and boost investment in adult social care
• Establish a National Care Service and ensure it protects individual choice when it comes to receiving support
• Reduce waiting times so that everyone who needs social care receives both an assessment and the support within the current guidelines
• Reduce levels of pensioner poverty by helping to boost income and reduce bills. Ensure access to reliable and independent information. Fund third sector organisations to provide free benefit checks, support people to claim and provide free and easy to read information guides
• Provide rent free space in public buildings for free-to-use cash machines to counter the loss from high streets and to help ensure access to cash across the country
• Support large pilot schemes for community shared banking hubs as a solution for bank branch closures
• Invest in the development of sport and walking sport options for older people
• Increase the number of accessible homes which are built
• Raise accessibility standards in new build properties to make them more age friendly and adaptable
• Ensure a broader mix of home types are built to meet the needs of Scotland’s population
• Ensure that all local authority areas have a funded care and repair service
• Take action to reduce fuel poverty
• Support and fund an increase in the provision of public toilets across Scotland
• Hold the eligibility age for the National Concessionary Travel Card at 60 for older people, invest more in rural public transport and support the expansion of community transport
• Ensure older people have good access to mental health support and increase the provision of older adult mental health services
• Reduce health inequalities and levels of delayed discharge, and increase healthy life expectancy
• Include a mobility component for the newly devolved Pension Age Disability Payment
• Use Pension Age Disability Payment to act as a passporting benefit to other forms of support such as Blue Badges
Action for Older People: Our Election Asks for 2021
At this election Age Scotland’s focus is on how to help older people be as well as they can be, tackling loneliness and isolation and promoting a positive view of ageing.