Tag Archives: Ageing

General Election Series: Why I think we should make the UK a great place to grow older

This week’s blog, from our General Election series, is a guest post from campaigner John Haywood.

I originally got involved with Age UK when I was advised to visit the Age UK shop in Romford- they’ve got a little office at the back where I was given a benefits check. It was such a relief- I’d been struggling to pay my bills, and they told me I was actually entitled to a whole load of benefits, like exemption from council tax and Pension Credit. It’s made a vast difference to me. Now, I’m telling people my story, and campaigning to make sure other older people get what they’re entitled to.

John Haywood, campaigner

John Haywood, campaigner

As an Age UK campaigner, I’ve been involved in the General election campaign. I sat on the Age UK sofa opposite Big Ben and explained how I thought we could make Britain a great place to grow older. For me, the essential thing I want to see from the next parliament, is a commitment to making sure older people have enough money to be comfortable. And that they know about what is available to help them if they don’t.

I speak to so many people who just don’t know what help they could be getting. Day to day, I give people as much information as possible. I tell them about Age UK and the help they can get- for instance, a friend of mine who is 80, and cares for his 92-year old sister. But this isn’t enough. The government needs to commit to ensuring older people have enough information, and know where to go to get it. I was terrified at the thought of how I’d get by when I retired. I only found out about benefits checks by chance- someone mentioned it to me on the bus, just like I now mention it to people I meet on the bus! It shouldn’t be down to chance, because it is so essential. Continue reading

New UK annuity reforms – lessons from the US

Photo credit: Linus Bohman (Flickr Creative Commons)

Photo credit: Linus Bohman (Flickr Creative Commons)

This week’s guest blog is from across the Atlantic. David C. John is a senior strategic policy advisor at the AARP Public Policy Institute. AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of more than 37 million older people across the USA.

 American experience strongly suggests that the coming UK pension freedoms sound better in theory than they will work in practice.  After nearly a decade where the UK has been the gold standard for retirement savings policy, it is about to take a step that it may regret.

As annuity purchases are not required, very few Americans buy them, feeling that they are spending a great deal of money for a comparatively small monthly income.  Even those in traditional DB pension plans usually take a lump sum if they are allowed to do so.  As a result, many US retirees spend unwisely, trust the wrong financial advisor, or make other financial mistakes.

Many people greatly overestimate how long their savings will last.  Most others assume (often wrongly) that they can manage their own money as well as anyone else or that they can live comfortably on Social Security alone.  US Social Security pays a benefit that depends on the retirees’ individual income history.  The average annual amount is about $13,000 (GBP 8,700).

One survey found that in West Virginia, a state with a relatively low average income, 78% of those near retirement and 67% of those at retirement would likely outlive their financial assets.  Workers with lower incomes are most at risk.  A recent national study found that by the 20th year of retirement, more than 81% of Americans with incomes up to $27,000 would run short of money, as would 38% of those earning up to $42,000, and 19% of those with incomes up to $65,000.  Even 8% of those with the highest incomes could not meet their expenses. Continue reading

Understanding frailty

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This week we have a guest blog from Gill Turner is Vice-President (Clinical Quality) of the British Geriatrics Society and project lead on the Fit for Frailty campaign 

It is hard to open a book, newspaper or listen to the news currently without hearing words like ‘the elderly’ , ‘dementia’ and ‘frail’. But what is meant by these words?

Frailty, for example. Many journalists use ‘frail’ to depict older people as victims of a failing NHS and underfunded social services. Doctors, nurses and relatives sometimes use ‘frail’ to describe people at the very end of their life, reinforcing its negative connotations.

And yet, work done by Age UK shows that older people see being ‘frail’ as akin to being weak, dependent and hopeless: they reject the idea of using it.

So, what if the word ‘frailty’ actually denoted a health condition which could be recognised, managed and even improved? What if the recognition of frailty opened the door to a range of health and social care services organised to address an older person’s wellbeing, independence and control over their own life?  Continue reading

Pension Schemes Bill entering final stages

Scrabble pieces spelling the work 'pension'

The Pension Schemes Bill has nearly completed its passage through Parliament, taking a step closer this week as Peers considered the Bill at its Report Stage in the Lords. As you’d expect, Age UK has taken a keen interest in this Bill, which is part of the Government’s wider ranging reforms to pensions announced by the Chancellor in the Budget last spring – the most significant changes to private pensions for over a generation.

From this April, there will be great flexibility, and greater choice for older people to access their retirement savings but with greater choice comes more responsibility, and potential complexity and risks, for older people making these important choices. Generally speaking, the pension reforms are a really welcome move giving those with pension savings approaching retirement freedom and greater options about how to access their money. However, with greater flexibility can also come greater risks for consumers. Continue reading