Author Archives: Age UK

Meeting our Age Champion MPs

Age UK campaigner Joan Manning receives a bunch of flowers from the Speaker of the House of Commons.

Today’s blog is about Age UK’s recent parliamentary reception to celebrate the commitment of our Age Champion MPs. Pictured is Age UK campaigner Joan, receiving flowers from the Speaker of the House of Commons in thanks for her speech.

On Monday 6th July, Age UK were delighted to host a Reception in the Speaker’s House with a number of our dedicated older campaigners and Parliamentarians. The event was an opportunity for MPs to speak with older people and representatives from Age UK about the issues affecting people in later life, and what the government and communities can do today and tomorrow to make the UK and their constituencies a better place to grow older.

Age UK campaigner Joan Manning gave a moving speech about her personal experience caring for her husband. She explained:

‘I have been lucky. My husband Geoffrey was a very gracious and accommodating patient. He was not aggressive. He was funny and made jokes until the day he died. I was lucky: He did not die of Alzheimer’s.  He was ‘saved’ by his cancer. Geoffrey was eventually assessed as being unwell enough to qualify for care. Unable to get out of bed, stand or communicate, with diffuse cancer and in the depths of dementia.  This was 3 days before he died. Yes – I was lucky.’

 

Age Champions

The reception was also an opportunity for us to talk about what it means to be an ‘Age Champion’; a pledge that over 80 MPs signed up to during our General Election campaign. By signing up to be an Age Champion, MPs will work with Age UK on issues being faced by many people in later life including:

– The need to end the crisis in social care, with over 1 million older people who have difficulty with basic tasks such as getting out of bed, washing, and dressing receive no help or support.

– The urgent need for better housing and warm homes in winter. In 2012 there were over 600,000 older households living in fuel poverty.

– Loneliness and isolation, with around 1 million older people regularly going an entire month without speaking to anyone

The event was a huge success and a fantastic opportunity for us and our campaigners to meet our Age Champions and discuss our ambitions for later life.

For more information about our work with parliamentarians head to our Politics and Government website pages. You can also follow our public affairs and campaigning work, and see photos from the reception, on Twitter: @ageukcampaigns.

Guest blog – Living well with dementia: understanding the benefits of music therapy

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Today’s guest post is from Donald Wetherick, Chair of Trustees at the British Association for Music TherapyAge UK recently took part in a Parliamentary roundtable exploring the benefits of music therapy for people living with dementia, as part of Music Therapy Week.

Over 800,000 people in Britain live with dementia. This is expected to increase to 2 million by 2050. For the growing number of people living with dementia, their carers and families, music therapy can play an important role in supporting their wellbeing and quality of life.

Oliver Sachs, the well-known neurologist, in his book ‘Musicophilia’, describes music therapy as seeking to ‘address the emotions, cognitive powers, thoughts and memories, the surviving “self” of the patient… to enrich and enlarge existence, to give freedom, stability, organisation and focus.’

Leading research shows it can significantly improve the lives of people with dementia, reducing agitation, isolation and depression as well as the need for medication. It can help people at all stages of dementia. Continue reading

Caring for carers – round up of Carers Week

The Prime Minister, Rt Hon David Cameron MP, speaking with older carers in Oxfordshire.

The Prime Minister, Rt Hon David Cameron MP, speaking with older carers in Oxfordshire.

Last week marked 2015’s Carers Week- a week dedicated to raising awareness about the vital role carers play in their community, and most importantly, a week dedicated to giving carers a treat.

The week, organised by Age UK and six other supporting organisations, focused this year on ‘building carer-friendly communities’. Each day had a theme of its own, with Older Carers Day falling on Friday 12 June. Carers Week this year fell helpfully within the first month of the new parliament, and only two months after the first round of Care Act regulations protecting carers’ rights were implemented for the first time- a hot topic of conversation throughout the week.

All in all, this year’s Carers Week was the most successful yet. The Parliamentary launch event which you can read about here, saw over 130 MPs meeting carers and finding out what it’s really like to care for a loved one on a daily basis. The Prime Minister, the Rt Hon David Cameron MP, even dropped in to an Older Carers Day Cream Tea in his constituency. He thanked the carers he got to meet, and commented on the importance of their role within Britain’s ageing society.  We hope this will be the start of a positive and fruitful relationship with the new parliament as we work to make sure carers get the support they deserve.

Outside the political arena, other advances were made to improve the wellbeing of carers. Often caring can take a huge physical and emotional toll on the carer, so events like Carers Oxfordshire’s ‘Because I’m Worth It’ where older carers developed a wellbeing plan for themselves, are essential. Carers across the country were offered massages, free cakes at local cafes, and opportunities to have a chat with people who understand what it’s like to care. In addition, there were thousands of information and advice events- like Age UK Cheshire East’s information stand in a local Sainsbury’s – which are vital for making sure carers get the information they need to stay well. Keeping a carer well is, of course, linked to keeping the person they care for well, too.

At the final count before the week launched, over 2,200 individuals and organisations had signed up, there were 1,730 pledges of support and thousands of events set to take place around the UK- it seems  there is no shortage of care for carers.

For more information about our Care in Crisis campaign, visit Age UK’s dedicated website pages, or carersweek.org.

Catch the Bus Week: the benefits for all

Classic Bristol busesToday’s blog is from Claire Haigh, Chief Executive at Greener Journeys- she discusses how buses are about more than just getting somewhere.

This summer, the industry-wide initiative, Catch the Bus Week will once again roll out across the country. Following the success of last year’s campaign, we at Greener Journeys can’t wait for another fantastic campaign – this time during a glorious summer (we’re sure!). The event will run from 29 June to 5 July, giving the Great British public even more of an incentive to get out of the car and walk to the bus stop. Greener Journeys is a campaign dedicated to promoting the value of the bus throughout our communities, and during Catch the Bus Week (CTBW), our campaign goes into overdrive as we coordinate activity from the whole bus world to get people out of cars and onto the bus!

But Catch the Bus Week is not just about inspiring people to make sustainable travel choices; it is also an opportunity to celebrate the vital role of the bus in connecting the most vulnerable in society with the community around them. This year, our campaign will highlight the huge social value of the bus by showing that the bus is a community and wellbeing enabler, allowing people to visit their loved ones, go to the shops, or get to volunteering opportunities.

Loneliness amongst older people is a problem all year round. Age UK research found that around one million people aged 65 or over in the UK (10%) say they always or often feel lonely. The bus network in the UK offers a lifeline for older people who may otherwise be isolated from friends, family and the local community, not least because of the concessionary travel scheme that Greener Journeys has campaigned tirelessly to protect. Greener Journeys’ research has found that for every £1 spent in funding concessionary travel, the bus pass generates £2.87 in benefits. It was therefore wonderful to see all of the main parties pledge their support for the bus pass in the run up to the election in May.

With loneliness amongst older people such a pressing issue here in the UK, Catch the Bus Week is the perfect opportunity to get people, young and old, onto the bus, and out into the community. Last year almost 100 bus companies, passenger organisations and local authorities all came together to run events, ticket giveaways and community engagement campaigns across the country. Many MPs also got involved by hopping on a bus and holding their surgeries, tweeting and blogging about #CTBW and speaking about the bus to their local media.

Indeed, Catch the Bus Week is a week in which we celebrate the bus as a vital service, underpinning societies, connecting loved ones and ensuring everyone can get out and about. It is also about galvanising the whole bus community, from bus operators to bus pass holders. So please get involved to make this the best Catch the Bus Week yet! Why not hop on a bus to visit someone you haven’t seen in a while, pick up something tasty from the shop, or help out at a local charity shop!

Also published by Age UK today- ‘Public transport fails the oldest and most vulnerable.’ To find out more about Age UK’s position on transport services for older people, visit our website.