Promote positive views of ageing and later life
Ageism persists in Scotland and has a destructive effect on the people who are subject to it. Ageism exacerbates loneliness and isolation, impacts health, wellbeing, finances, the economy and has serious consequences for people’s human rights.
It is experienced by older and younger people manifesting itself in everyday life, the workplace, the media and the public representation of age groups.
Across the world it is estimated that half of the population harbour ageist attitudes. Scotland is not immune from this.
The consequences of ageism have never been more apparent than amid a global pandemic.
Scotland must shift the negative narrative that exists around ageing and tackle age discrimination in all its forms. We agree with the United Nations who say that the best way to combat ageism is to ensure robust policy and protections in law, education and to support intergenerational interaction bringing together younger and older generations.
Spotlight: Older People’s Commissioner
We believe the treatment of older people during the Covid-19 pandemic has, more than ever, demonstrated the need for an independent commissioner who works to protect and promote the human rights of older people.
There are numerous ways in which older people have been profoundly impacted by the pandemic, with issues such as the high death and severe illness rates; care home residents without access to loved ones; the removal of social care packages; blanket or inappropriate Do Not Attempt Resuscitation decisions; access to medical treatment; ageism; loneliness and isolation; access to food; and shielding.
We are calling for the next Scottish Government to establish an Older People’s Commissioner for Scotland, through the Scottish Parliament, who will have the power to hold public bodies to account and take up casework on behalf of older people. A key theme of their work should be to advance and safeguard the rights of people living with dementia. They would be a key figure helping to tackle age discrimination and ageism across Scottish society.
Scotland already has a Commissioner for Children & Young People and successive commissioners have done valuable work since the office was created in 2004. Similar to the positions in Wales and Northern Ireland, an Older People’s Commissioner for Scotland will be a direct link to government on behalf of older people.
Ministerial responsibilities for older people
It is important that there is an effective voice within government advocating and developing policy solutions for older people.
The existing roles of a Cabinet Secretary and Minister, as established in 2018, with named responsibilities for older people should be maintained.
Support older workers
A third of our workforce are now over 50 and there are twice as many people aged 65 and over in employment in Scotland today compared to 10 years ago. This number is set to rise as changes to retirement and state pensions make working beyond 65 more common.
Older people should not be subject to discrimination in the workplace. We know that older workers who lose their jobs are less likely to find a new one, or one at a similar level, than those who are younger than them. This has an immediate impact on pension savings and people nearing retirement age who find themselves in this position may have to start using these savings earlier than planned, living for longer with a lower income.
Similar to younger people, older workers have been severely impacted by the pandemic. More than one in five 55-74-year olds in permanent employment have lost their job, been furloughed or had their pay or hours reduced.
Older workers may be more concerned about the impact to their health if they return to their workplace, especially if they have been unable to work from home.
Older workers must not be left behind in the economic recovery from Covid-19 and the Scottish Government should send a strong message that they are a valuable asset to business, the economy and the country.
Age inclusive workplaces should be embedded across Scotland.
The next Scottish Government should:
• Establish an Older People’s Commissioner for Scotland to promote and safeguard human rights
• Maintain the roles of a cabinet secretary and minister with responsibility for older people
• Tackle ageism by ensuring robust policy and protections in law, through education and supporting intergenerational activity
• Provide inclusive support for older workers who have been impacted by Covid-19 with thorough support to retrain and upskill where required
• Remove barriers to ensure older workers can continue to contribute to the labour market
• Promote age inclusive workplaces and combat negative stereotypes about older workers
• Encourage people to plan and save for their retirement
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.