Each year, Age UK stands back and takes an overview of how society is meeting the needs of people in later life and sets out our agenda for public policy in the year ahead. In our Agenda for Later Life 2013 report we track changes in a range of key areas including money matters, work and learning and health and social care.
Public attitudes, policies and the economy all impact on people’s experiences of ageing. This year, as the economy bumps along the bottom, it would be all too easy to concentrate on the challenges we face. However, we strongly believe in the need to focus on the opportunities as well.
The publication of a White Paper setting out plans for a new single tier State Pension brings hope of better provision in future for those with low incomes and interrupted working lives.
The announcement of the Government’s intentions to implement the Dilnot recommendations on funding social care is also an encouraging sign.
These have been top Age UK priorities for a very long time and so we welcomed both initiatives, but we were profoundly disappointed that current public-spending constraints mean they will produce less immediate and dramatic improvements for older people than we have been calling for.
1 in 6 people alive in the UK today will see their 100th birthday and we see this as a real opportunity. Having millions more fit, active, engaged older people than ever before, who can carry on sharing their experience and knowledge, as well as making substantial contributions through employment, volunteering and caring both in their communities and the wider consumer marketplace.
And as we move towards greater integration of health and social care, we recognise that higher-quality; better-integrated social care and primary health care will mean that many older people will be healthier and happier at home.
A better care system will relieve pressures on the NHS. Making policy and delivery changes to adjust to the growing numbers of older people will mean public funding is better spent and this would benefit us all.
There are still 1.7 million older people living in relative poverty today. We believe that all current and future pensioners should have sufficient income to live comfortably and participate fully in society. Tackling poverty and the financial disadvantage of older people is an urgent priority. Policy-makers at a national, local and industry level need to work together to create a fundamental shift in approach.
What is still lacking is a long-term strategic approach that pulls together individual reforms into a convincing vision for change, recognising the opportunities arising from increasing longevity as well as the undoubted challenges.
The recent House of Lords Committee report on Public Service and Demographic Change echoes our calls to Government for a cross-departmental strategy and action plan. This strategy should set out how public services including health, care, housing, transport and income, will be re-designed to become fit for the purpose of serving an ageing society.
Together, we believe that we can, and we must, work energetically and positively for a better later life, even in these toughest of economic times.
After you have read the report, we would appreciate it if you could complete our survey to let us know what you thought of it.