Happy New Year?

Much media mirth – and indeed derision – accompanied the announcement at the end of November that  measures of happiness, or to quote accurately ‘national wellbeing’ were being developed to allow a comprehensive assessment of what makes ‘lives worthwhile’ and what would improve or detract from our national wellbeing. 

But what is meant by wellbeing?  The UK Inquiry into Mental Health and Wellbeing in Later Life published in June 2006  and conducted jointly by Age Concern and the Mental Health Foundation,  highlighted five key areas which impact upon this: discrimination, participation in meaningful activities, strong social relationships, physical health and poverty.  The report also recognised that the issues were complex and overlapping and that action was required to alleviate these pressures across a range of national and local bodies, public, private and third sector organisations. 

The current consultation asks whether particular indicators ‘matter’ to people, including:

  • income and wealth,
  • job satisfaction and economic security,
  • ability to have a say on local and national issues,
  • having good connections with friends and relatives,
  • present and future conditions of the environment,
  • crime,
  • health,
  • education and training,
  • personal and cultural activities, including caring and volunteering,

and whether these should be reflected in measures of national wellbeing. 

Given the similarities between the findings of the 2006 inquiry and the current consultation it is safe to say that we probably have a pretty clear idea of the factors which do impact on individuals’ feeling of wellbeing or even happiness.  The challenge is how to positively impact upon these, and also to identify who should have responsibility for doing so.  The current political and fiscal environment challenges our thinking on where this should lie – with Government, local authorities, the private sector or with individuals themselves. 

As we emerge from the festive season  perhaps we should reflect on whether for a few days at least,  as good neighbours, friends and family we managed to bring good cheer to those older people for whom this time of year has been  particularly challenging.  Happy  New Year!

Author: Sara Osborne

Head of Public Policy at Age UK

One thought on “Happy New Year?”

  1. Dear Ms Osborne,
    I am pleased abot your web site and being able to comment. I am 57 years old and retired as a nurse at 55 years old, I then worked part time until I was 57 years old and I retired at the end of July 2010.( Nurses are allowed to retire at this age on an NHS PENSION due to the physical nature of this profession ). I made my plans based on the fact that I would have only six years to wait for my State Pension at 63 years and 3 months. I was then dismayed to hear that I may have to wait a further 18 months ( I was born in 1953 ). I have worked all my life 42 years as I left school at 15 years old and went into nursing at 18 years old so I have worked my way up from the bottom to being at the top of my profession clinically which I can tell you was extremely hard work. I know that I have paid enough national insurance already to get a full State Pension but may now be delayed. I do not mind having my state pension being delayed once but twice is really not acceptable. For people like me who have already retired and have given up their regitsration as a nurse has ruined my plans. I have written to my MP he has replied and is going to spaek to the pensions minister Steve Webb and will get back to me. I have written to the BBC but have heared nothing.

    Kind Regards
    Miss Elaine Freeman

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