Can I afford to buy fairtrade produce?

These are tough times for all of us trying to balance our budgets. We all have to find ways of cutting corners so we can continue to feed our families. For some of us that means buying less food, for others that means buying cheaper food. But what is the real price of cheap food?

300px_african_farmersNo one over the past few weeks can fail to have realised that cheaper food sometimes means questionable quality and provenance. It appears clear that profit has been put before people (and animals):

  • The public wants cheaper produce;
  • The supermarkets want to attract customers by keeping prices lower;
  • The supermarkets therefore pay lower prices to their suppliers;
  • And right at the end of the chain, the farmer suffers.

Nowhere is this more evident in developing countries which either cannot afford to pay its farmers subsidies, or choose not to do so.

These are tough times for us; but even tougher times for millions of farmers and workers in developing countries – many of whom are older people. Despite producing approximately 70 per cent of the world’s food, over half of the world’s hungry people are smallholder farmers themselves, who struggle to earn a decent living from their crops. Unfair trade means they still only receive a tiny proportion of the price we pay for food.

Continue reading “Can I afford to buy fairtrade produce?”

Green Deal officially launched

The avowed ambition of the Green Deal is to offer everyone the opportunity to improve the energy efficiency of their home at no up-front cost, so enabling them to make it warmer and cheaper to run.   Given that a third of our general housing stock is occupied by older households, Age UK obviously supports any initiative which will improve the quality and energy efficiency of our homes.   That is particularly important because with the introduction of the Green Deal, all the existing programmes which have operated in this field in the past, such as Warm Front and the insulation programme CERT run by the energy companies, are now closed.

The design of the Green Deal invites the householder to call the Energy Saving Advice Service (on 0300 123 1234) to find a Green Deal Provider – a private sector company accredited and monitored by the Government. This Provider will then arrange for an Assessor to visit, and identify the relevant steps which could be taken (such as insulation, new boiler, radiator valves etc). The  220x220_woman_adjusting_thermostatrecommended work must meet the ‘golden rule’ that the cost of getting this work done would reduce the household’s spending on energy by a greater amount – so saving the householder money. A Green Deal Plan will then be prepared for the householder to agree to, an authorised Installer would then arrive to do the work, and a repayment plan will be devised which will be added to (the now reduced) electricity bill for an agreed period. In effect, the loan is a debt on the energy meter, not on the householder, and gets passed on if the house is bought and sold. Continue reading “Green Deal officially launched”

EY2012 – a happy and glorious year for older Europeans?

This blog was contributed by Nicola Robinson, Age UK’s European Political Adviser.

2012 wasn’t just the year of the London Olympics, and the Queen’s Jubilee, it was also the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations (EY2012).

Like London 2012 – recognised as happy and glorious, EY2012 leaves us with much to celebrate.

The Opening Ceremony took place in Copenhagen – a pretty good place to grow old, with impressive participation rates in employment, volunteering and all sorts of fun.EY2012

Commissioner Andor fired the starting pistol and Eurocrats were off to a flyer, producing a bumper crop of pan-European reports, including a Statistical Portrait, 2012 Ageing Report, and Eurobarometer Survey.

There are now 182m Europeans aged 50+, living longer, more active lives than ever before.

To celebrate, Age UK hosted a World Café, organized by older people, inviting 100 Europeans aged 50+ to help change perceptions of ageing.  We also celebrated the huge contribution of older people at our Volunteering Awards, supported by the European Commission and Parliament.  And we celebrated physical activity in later life, through our Fit as a Fiddle programme, which won EU and WHO plaudits. Continue reading “EY2012 – a happy and glorious year for older Europeans?”

Financial services – access all areas?

The Government has taken an important step forward in ensuring that financial services work for older people. It proposed an amendment to the Financial Services Act which, for the first time, gives the regulator a mandate not just to protect consumers, but also to ask whether consumers can access the products and services they need.

Age UK has been calling for the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to be given this ‘access mandate’.  We’ve been convinced of the need for the regulator to look at access because of what we hear from older people – we see many problems caused not just by dangerous products that consumers should be protected from but also because of the lack of products and services that are really accessible to older people.

200x160_moneyBarriers vary:  it could be direct age discrimination – being told you’re ‘too old’ for a mortgage, or credit card, or insurance.  Or it could be indirect, having to jump through so many hoops to find and obtain the right kind of insurance that you give up.   Often the design of services mean they just don’t work for large groups of older people – for example relying on text messages for updates and removing paper statements will make it harder for many older people to manage their money well, the reduction of the branch network and poorly designed telephone and online banking systems will make it almost impossible for others to manage independently at all.
Continue reading “Financial services – access all areas?”

Guest blog – Making airports more ‘user-friendly’

This blog was contributed by Seema Jain, a Designer and Research Associate with Engage Business Network, Age UK. She is working on a Knowledge Transfer Partnership between Brunel University and Age UK.

In a recent visit to a London airport, we were shown how accessibility measures have been improved, ahead of the London Olympics, in an attempt to meet the needs of those passengers with reduced mobility. Although it is crucial to consider the needs of these passengers, many of whom are older travellers, it has brought to light the need to include the needs of older passengers specifically.

Certainly not all older passengers would consider themselves as a passenger with reduced mobility, but some may still require assistance with the complex and sometimes tiring task of travelling by air. The following suggestions aim to consider the needs of passengers who do need assistance and in doing so provide useful recommendations for passengers of all ages.

Five key recommendations for airports:

  • It would be beneficial for airports to provide paper maps of the layout of their terminals, highlighting the key services such as toilets (and accessible toilets), food outlets, accessible seating areas, information desks and passenger assistance points so that those passengers who require assistance upon entering the airport can locate these services quickly. The airport could even go one step further to provide this information as an app which is contextual (i.e. provide the airport layout depending on where the passenger is located). Airport layout maps can be a tool utilised by all passengers, especially those who are unfamiliar with the airport.
  • Airports and airlines should attempt to steer away from using the term ‘Special Assistance’ as this could be taken to mean that those passengers who require assistance are ‘out of the ordinary’. Instead passengers should be able to take advantage of a service which provides a seamless experience and without highlighting their need for ‘special’ help. For example, an alternative name such as ‘Extra Assistance’ may be better suited and would still highlight the availability of accessibility services in airports.

Continue reading “Guest blog – Making airports more ‘user-friendly’”

Barriers to food shopping for older people

This blog was contributed by Gretel Jones, Policy Officer (Consumer Markets) at Age UK. 

Older people are an important and growing consumer group.  For the first time, there are more people aged over 65 than under 16 in the UK.  This growth in the older population is estimated to continue for the foreseeable future.

From a business point of view, older consumers are the only growing market there is.  Sadly, although the Government has recognised the implications of an ageing society on public services, the same does not seem to be the case for the private sector.  Many marketers do not understand or address the older population and consequently this is a segment that often gets misrepresented, neglected or ignored.

Difficulties in getting to the shops

Difficulties increased with age.  While only 8% of 60 to 64 year olds had difficulty this rose to 19% for the 80 to 84s and 60% for those aged over 90.  This is very relevant given it is the older older age group that is estimated to be the fastest growing segment of older people.  This of course is exacerbated for people living in rural areas where public transport links are so poor.  Also relevant to the journey is the difficulty older people have in carrying heavy shopping home.

Difficulties in the store

Poor store layout, poor lighting, aisles that are too narrow and lack of seating and toilet facilities can cause problems. Deep trolleys and freezers make it hard to get shopping out and it is hard to reach up to the top shelf or down to the bottom ones.  Size of fonts on shelf labels can be too small for them to see.

A new problem is lack of confidence in using the self-service checkouts which are bound to be on the increase.

Meeting the needs of older people

Ease of opening of packaging is a constant criticism from older people. Vacuum packs, opening tins and jars and childproof bottles are particularly problematic. But equally difficult is the food information on the packs.  Often in print that is too small and with insufficient colour contrasts makes it difficult to read.

About 37% of older people live alone.  But a lot of other age groups do as well and it is estimated that there will be an 18% growth in single-person households by 2031.  Yet food retailers seem to target larger households which often increases the costs of food shopping for smaller ones.

Age UK’s new report, Food Shopping in Later Life, gives details on six of the shopping services provided by local Age UKs that aim to help older people to shop.  It also makes a number of recommendations for retailers that would be helpful for older people.

Read our new report Food Shopping in Later Life

Find out more about our work on consumer issues