Healthy ageing: a vision of the future?

On the International Day of Older Persons the World Health Organisation (WHO) has published a new ‘World Report on Ageing and Health’. Here Ken Bluestone, who leads Age International’s policy and influencing work, looks at the findings from the report. 

An astonishing transformation is taking place that has until now been absent from mainstream development thinking: global ageing. Its absence is even more surprising as the evidence makes clear that demographic changes are affecting developing countries the most.

Currently about one in ten of the population is aged 60 or over; but within a generation – 2050 – this ratio will soar to one in five.  Two-thirds of the 868 million older people alive today are in developing countries; and of the 2 billion people expected to be over the age of 60 by 2050, over three-quarters will live in low and middle-income countries. The rate of change is phenomenal.

What we do with this information will determine whether this new reality is something to welcome or be feared. This is why the World Health Organisation’s new ‘World Report on Ageing and Health’ released today on the International Day of Older Persons is so important. Its message is clear: celebrate our longer lives; invest in older people; but most importantly – be prepared. Continue reading “Healthy ageing: a vision of the future?”

Closing the gender pay gap

This week’s blog was contributed by Joanne Sawyer, Policy Adviser, at Age UK.  

Whilst older women are a vital force in today’s workplaces, they tend to fare poorly in the labour market.  They are more likely than men to be in lower paid, lower skilled, insecure or part time work and to have had one or more periods out of the labour market (such as to care for children or older relatives).

We are pleased that the Government is currently looking into how to support women throughout their working lives.  It is proposing to require larger employees (of which Age UK is one) to report their gender pay gap (i.e. the percentage gap between men and women’s pay within their organisation).

For women under the age of 40, there is reason to be cheerful as the gender pay gap has broadly disappeared.  But for those in their 40s and beyond, the picture is far less rosy.  Women working full time in their 40s or those aged over 60 earn nearly 14% less than men.  And women in their 50s earn 18% less than men, the highest of any working age group.

Not only is the gender pay gap significant during a women’s working life, but it affects her financial security, such as her pension, in later life.

Age UK believes that publishing gender pay gap information will help to shine a light on women’s lower pay throughout their working lives and their financial wellbeing in retirement.  However, publishing information alone will not be enough, unless the Government and employers focus on the reasons for the pay gap and how to address them. Continue reading “Closing the gender pay gap”

A UN Convention on the Rights of Older People: from deliberation to action

Ageism is a world-wide problem and negative attitudes towards older people are pervasive in many cultures and societies, including our own. Older people are all too often stereotyped as ‘has-beens’ with no aspirations or future and even as threats to the opportunities of younger people.  The direct effect of this ageism is that older people are at major risk of experiencing discriminatory treatment globally and across a wide range of situations; from undignified and inadequate care in the household, hospitals and residential homes, to unequal treatment in employment and inadequate responses in emergency and humanitarian situations.

The UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) adopted in 1948 explicitly prohibits discrimination on a wide range of grounds; ‘race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status’ (UDHR, Art 2). Arguably the most glaring omission from this list is ‘age’, the result of which is that very little attention is given to the human rights of older people by international human rights mechanisms. Continue reading “A UN Convention on the Rights of Older People: from deliberation to action”

Guest blog: Uncovering the incontinence taboo in social care

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Today’s guest blog is from Professor Paul Abrams, Chair of the expert group on LUTS and highlights the issues that arise when continence isn’t given the prominence it deserves.

According to the Department of Health, incontinence is second only to dementia as a precipitating factor in care home admissions and affects nearly 2 in 3 in nursing homes.

Despite this, new analysis published by the expert group on lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) demonstrates that the majority of local authority commissioners do not view incontinence as a priority.

Continue reading “Guest blog: Uncovering the incontinence taboo in social care”

‘His Name is Charles’ – new campaign film about human rights for older people

Human rights can provide people with a way to challenge degrading or abusive treatment and provide a framework for compassionate and dignified care. This week we have launched a new campaign film to get people talking about human rights for older people.

Sadly it’s a fact that increasing numbers of older people are reporting physical abuse and neglect; ill treatment that is happening at the hands of the people who are supposed to care for them. Last year the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) reported a 20% rise in allegations of abuse, with more than a third of those cases taking place in care homes. Continue reading “‘His Name is Charles’ – new campaign film about human rights for older people”

A relative in need brings home the importance of human rights

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To mark  Human Rights Day, Nicky Hawkins, Communications Director for Equally Ours – a campaign set up by eight national (including Age UK) charities to talk about the importance of human rights and how they benefit us all in everyday life, has contributed a guest post. 

It’s Human Rights Day today. Many reading this will wonder what this really means. Another day, another cause or issue to be championed or concerned about – why are human rights any different?

Despite working on human rights every day, it wasn’t until my mum had a spell in hospital that I felt like I had an answer to that question. She’s being cared for mainly at home now and her hospital stay was mercifully brief. But for me, hearing about her experience – from the trauma of a bad night to the relief of having someone sit with her and explain what was going on – brought home the vital importance of human rights for people who are reliant on others for their care.

Human rights mean there’s a system in place if something goes wrong. But, just as importantly, they provide reassurance to people who are vulnerable when they most need it. Jan, a disabled woman who used human rights laws says “it helped me to feel stronger because it told me it’s ok to want to be treated like a human being.” What could be more important when you’re frightened and alone? Continue reading “A relative in need brings home the importance of human rights”

A denial of dignity

Older woman with carer

The European Court has ruled on a challenge brought by Elaine McDonald, a user of social care services in Kensington and Chelsea, regarding reductions to her care package which amounted to a denial of dignity. This ruling is the final stage in a series of cases that have included the UK Appeal Court and Supreme Court. Age UK intervened in the Supreme Court case.

At the heart of the dispute is the issue of whether someone who is not incontinent should be expected to wear incontinence pads rather than being assisted to use the toilet at night. Ms McDonald has argued that being required to do this is a breach of her human rights.

UK courts, including the Supreme Court, accepted that Kensington and Chelsea’s decision to remove night time care was unlawful in English law as it was implemented without carrying out a proper reassessment of need. However UK courts have not accepted that this involved a breach of human rights, or that the council acted unlawfully in withdrawing care once (a year after the initial decision) it finally completed an assessment. Continue reading “A denial of dignity”