What does the future hold?

Third Force News (TFN) asked us to tell us their vision for the sector in 10 years’ time.  This is how our Chief Executive replied: 

By 2024 I hope those doom-mongering about our ageing population will have fallen silent, proven wrong as people increasingly live active later lives that keep them happy, well, and independent.

Brian Sloan, chief executive, Age Scotland

Brian Sloan, Chief Executive, Age Scotland

If we invest wisely in preventative services, the best examples of which are often delivered by third sector organisations, we can achieve this. However endless budget salami slicing and bureaucratic tangles could throw this ambition off-course. We also need to abolish extreme health and income inequalities, otherwise too many will find the positive lifestyle choices necessary to enjoy later life just too difficult to make.

The concept of retirement will have changed beyond recognition. Already rising state pension ages and the ending of the default retirement age are meaning more of us are working into our 70s and beyond. This will be positive if governments and employers work together to enable people to enjoy productive, stimulating and flexible later careers. Not only would incidence of low self-esteem and isolation reduce, but younger generations would better appreciate older people’s value.  However, if we don’t prepare many older people will end up stuck in jobs they can no longer do or feel they have done too long.

As more digital natives enter later life the balance of Age Scotland’s communications will shift online.  But some older people will still require, or prefer, printed formats so these won’t disappear entirely.  I look forward to more older citizen journalists emerging, able and willing to tell their stories using digital communications technology.

You can see what the other charities have to say in the series here.

Rise of the centenarians

The National Records of Scotland has this week revealed that there are 800 people in Scotland over the age of 100.  Doug Anthoney responds.  

graph

There has been a 57% rise in the number of centenarians in the last decade.  Woman over 100 outnumber men, although longer life expectancy for men is beginning to narrow the gap.  There has also been a significant rise in the number of people in their 90s, in part because of a marked increase in the number of births in 1920 and 1921.  The figures were based on analysis of the 2011 census.

We said that more of us are living longer is cause for celebration.  Older people make a massive contribution to Scottish society; as active citizens, workers, carers and cultural contributors.

With some forecasts showing that a quarter of babies born in the UK last year will live to see their 100th birthday, we can certainly expect to see the number of centenarians rise.  The challenge will be to ensure healthy life expectancy keeps pace with longer life expectancies, however sadly Scotland is doing less well than the rest of the UK in that regard, particularly for males.

Governments can make a difference, by ensuring our public services are reshaped to respond better to individuals’ needs, and by putting more emphasis on prevention of health and social problems.  However each of us can maximise our chance of enjoying a good quality of life at age 100 by taking heed of advice, whatever our age, for healthy lifestyles and active ageing.

Doug Anthoney is Age Scotland Communication and Campaigns Officer.  This post is part of the ‘Tomorrow’s Fish and Chip paper’ article series reporting the hot topics Age Scotland has been discussing with the media each week, and the Charity’s response.

 

Volunteer eyes and ears for care watchdog

In a week when failing care homes again hogged the headlines, the Care Inspectorate announced plans to recruit volunteer eyes and ears to help drive up standards.  Doug Anthoney reports.

Woman with home carer

The Care Inspectorate, Scotland’s care ‘watchdog,’ is recruiting 100 members of the public to act as lay assessors.  This would more than double its current volunteer contingent of 70.  The role of lay assessors is to talk to residents and their families to find out how they feel about the care they are receiving

We welcome the increase in scrutiny that extra lay assessors would bring. But their involvement has to be more than just a ‘box-ticking exercise.’ It’s a stressful time when people make the decision to move into a care home, and many have concerns about how they or their family members will be treated and whether their rights, preferences and lifestyle choices will be respected.  It is important that people have contact with the Care Inspectorate, are listened to and that the care home will be held to account if anything goes wrong.  We hope that this will be a step towards the end of the terrible abuse stories we have heard over the last few years.

Meanwhile we’ve watched the crisis at Pentland Hill unfold with increasing alarm.  Police are now investigating four deaths and a number of additional complaints have been made by family members.  We urge the agencies to be as quick and rigorous as possible in their investigations, so that lessons can be learned and residents and their families get satisfaction.

Doug Anthoney is Age Scotland Communication and Campaigns Officer.  This post is part of the ‘Tomorrow’s Fish and Chip paper’ article series reporting the hot topics Age Scotland has been discussing with the media each week, and the Charity’s response.

Are pensioners drinking themselves to death? (Tomorrow’s fish and chip paper)

Problem drinking in later life has become an epidemic, according to newspapers this week.  Doug Anthoney responds.

wine glass

New government figures show that last year almost 10,500 people aged 60 and over in Scotland needed hospital treatment for alcohol, one in three of all such admissions and a 62% increase in the last five years.  By contrast there were just over 8,000 incidents for the 35 and under age group.

We agreed that the high incidence of alcohol misuse among older people is of real concern.  Later life sometimes brings bereavement and isolation, which in turn can affect mental health and well-being.  Older people are more likely to drink at home, every day and on their own, suggesting that some use it as ‘self-medication’ to deal with life’s stresses; perhaps without an awareness of just how much they are drinking.

So what’s the solution? Families, health and social care professionals need to be aware of the issue, and be able to tell the signs of problem drinking from those of the natural ageing process.  We also need to ensure that older people can access the kind of social and support opportunities offered by Age Scotland’s member groups; from lunch clubs to Men’s Sheds.  But let’s try to keep it in perspective; it’s by no means an issue for every older person! You might be interested in the views of regular guest blogger Pat Craig on this issue.

Doug Anthoney is Age Scotland Communication and Campaigns Officer.  ‘Tomorrow’s fish and chip paper’ is off on holiday but will be back on 19th July.

Tomorrow’s fish and chip paper – New bills, old debts

Doug Anthoney offers Age Scotland’s take on this week’s news stories.

man at chiropidist

This week saw publication of a long trailed Bill to join-up, and so improve, health and social care services – the snappily titled Public Bodies (Joint Working) (Scotland) Bill.  We’ve been campaigning for this for quite some time, and have been broadly supportive of the Scottish Government’s proposal; namely to make NHS and Councils work together in delivering health and social care services, with pooled budgets and shared targets and accountability.

So, does it cut the mustard?  A first review (we’ll be trawling it repeatedly over coming weeks) suggests much is as expected, which is pleasing.  But we’re concerned that a watered down duty to merely ‘consult’ the third sector might marginalise the role and influence of the many voluntary groups and social enterprises that play such a crucial role in keeping older people healthy, happy and independent in their homes.  Our call for the Bill to be underpinned by values and human rights also seems to have been ignored.  We’ll be raising these points with Alex Neil, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, next week.

The week’s other big story was publication of Scottish Widows UK Pensions report which scores Scotland lowest for retirement preparations.  It claims that over a third of Scots (39%) who could and should be preparing financially for their old age are under-saving for retirement, nearly three times the UK average (14%).  Meanwhile, our aspirations for retirement income have increased to £24,500 per year, almost double what the average person retiring at 65 could expect (£11,200).  The research also found that we are entering retirement with an increasing number of credit commitments, including loans, mortgages and credit card debts.

Scottish Widows, while inevitably signposting people to its own services, has highlighted a serious issue, and behind these figures are many people who will be very anxious about their future incomes as they approach retirement.  Things look a little better for future pensioners, with the introduction of a flat rate state pension of £144 per week in 2016, and with automatic enrolment in workplace pensions, but this does nothing for those on the brink of retirement now.

What can be done?  Westminster and Holyrood could, and should, put energy into alleviating poverty among our current pensioners, we said.  Employers can also help their older employees to plan effectively for retirement, as the most enlightened already do.  And individuals can take action to maximise their income; for example by calling the Age Scotland Helpline for a benefits entitlement check, and by making use of the Pensions Tracing Service to see if they have a forgotten historic pension pot.

Doug Anthoney is Age Scotland Communication and Campaigns Officer

Tomorrow’s fish and chip paper

In this new regular column Doug Anthoney looks back at the week’s big news stories about later life.

Hospital corridor

Age Scotland is fortunate to be regularly approached by journalists looking for comment on news about, or relevant to, older people.  It used to be said that ‘today’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chip paper,’ but in the internet age we have to be mindful that our views can circulate for a lot longer, and wider. In this column we’ll share our response to each week’s big stories; uncut by the sub-editor’s red pen.  Wherever possible our comments are based on canvassing of older people’s opinions, and on our policy research. But we’re not infallible, so please tell us if you think we’ve got it wrong (or right!)

The first big story this week was Glasgow consultant Professor Paul Knight, the new President of the British Geriatrics Society, who criticised the lack of training medial staff receive on the complex needs of older people.  Staff may decide, he said, that someone is disorientated because they are older, and not because they are ill, and so miss an opportunity to intervene.  From Healthcare Improvement Scotland’s reports on acute care for older people it’s clear that, despite many caring staff and some very good practice, too often patient assessments are incomplete, ward environments are less than ideal, and staff are at times flippant and disrespectful in talking to and about older patients.  So we agree with him that NHS staff training, both skills and attitudes, needs to be thoroughly reviewed to ensure it meets older people’s needs.

The topic of grandparents’ role in childcare was also hot, with a report showing that almost two thirds of those with a grandchild under age 16 look after them, and almost one in five doing ten or more hours childcare a week.  Are grandparents doing too much, we were asked, in effect compensating for lack of affordable childcare and declining family incomes?  Yes, we said – to an extent.

The bond between grandparents and grandchildren can be very special, and many grandparents are happy to help with caring.  However it has to be a positive choice, and older people shouldn’t feel pressured to put aside their own needs and aspirations because of society’s failings.  With figures out this week showing that the number of people in Scotland working past State Pension Age soaring by 12,000 in the last 12 months, and State Pension Age set to rise, we would also question how sustainable this is.  Government should, at the very least extend rights to request flexible working to grandparents and make parental leave transferrable to them.

Doug Anthoney is Age Scotland Communication and Campaigns Officer

New Year, new challenges

With the year still young, the Age Scotland Communications team looks forward to what is likely to be an eventful 2013.

Binoculars

Happy New Year!

With batteries recharged, the Age Scotland Communications team is back and gearing up to meet the challenges that the coming months are likely to bring. Of course, we can’t predict all of these, however we can share some of the things that are getting us excited, and a few that are likely to test us.

So far the winter has been comparatively mild, but as there’s time yet for a cold snap we’re still recruiting for our Winter Weather Watch – a network of ‘eyes and ears’ across the country keeping an eye on how well our Council’s meet the needs of vulnerable older people should temperatures plunge. Thanks to additional funding from the Scottish Government we’ve been able to print another run of our Hot Tips Calendar.  So if you or an older person you know of could benefit from advice on keeping warm, safe and comfortable in winter, please get in touch.

The Coalition Government’s welfare reform plans are likely to have a big impact on many older people, so we’ll be working with our colleagues on the Age Scotland Helpline to raise awareness of this change and encouraging people to maximize their income under the new system.

We’re also planning campaign action to improve the concessionary travel scheme, calling for an extension of the bus pass scheme to include community transport services. The bus pass has been great for older people, but those who find that commercial bus services don’t meet their needs can become isolated.

Santa arrived early for us, with pre-Christmas delivery of video filming and editing equipment funded by our partner Age UK (many thanks!). After some training and a little practice, we’re planning to increase substantially our use of online video; enabling us to better communicate news and information, and to present older people’s real life stories in a more powerful way.

We’ve also brought forward by a month the schedule for our quarterly magazine, Advantage, to fit better with key dates for some of our big initiatives including the Luminate Festival and Hot Tips Calendar. If you haven’t seen Advantage yet, why not check it out in its new digital format.

 

 

 

Weekly news round up – 2nd November 2012

Money

  • Workers warned their pensions will shrink in a ‘dose of cold economic reality’ to savers – Daily Mail
  • Keep your fuel bills low – Scotsman

Health and care

  • Elderly in fear of going out – Express
  • Breast screening advice updated amid controversy over tests – BBC

Politics and society

  • Action plan to plug gaps in Scottish human rights provision – Age Scotland
  • Cut cash for wealthy OAPs – Sun
  • Over-65s lead rise in cohabitation outside marriage – Financial Times

Something for the weekend

  • Kung fu grandmother makes her Hollywood debut at 79 – The Times

Weekly news round up – 26th October 2012

Money

  • Aged over 50? The downturn probably cost you £60,000! – Daily Mail
  • Millions must work forever – Daily Express
  • Working into their 70s, the one in four women who don’t have pensions, and can’t afford to retire- Daily Mail

Health and care

  • Exercising in your 70s ‘may stop brain shrinkage’ – BBC
  • Hearing the voices of Scotland’s carers – Third Force News

Politics and society

  • Work for Charity or lose your pension – Mirror
  • Winterbourne View: Care workers jailed for abuse – BBC

Something for the weekend

  • Perth Scooter Gran T-shirts wheeled out to aid charity- Courier
  • Lance Armstrong memoir ‘fiction’ joke by charity shop goes viral – STV

Weekly news round up – 12th October 2012

Money

Health and care

  • Baby boomer alcohol harm ‘more likely than in young’ – BBC
  • Survery reveals sight loss fears – Age Scotland

Politics and society

  • Centenarian numbers soar – Herald
  • Care probe report to be made public – Scotsman

Something for the weekend

  • At 60, Putin still starts his day Scots way – Scotsman