No less Atlases

Along with thousands of people, I picked up a copy of the Evening Standard on the train the other day (9 November). But unlike those thousands, as I read it I recalled a lecturer of mine who used to say, mantra-like, that half-baked evidence is no evidence at all.

What prompted the memories from my cherished years as a university student was an article by Russell Lynch on the so-called ‘Atlas generation’ – i.e. people in their 20s and 30s. Lynch claimed they would be ‘sagging’ under the burden of the concessions for older people announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review (eye tests, concessionary fares, TV licences, and winter fuel payments spared from the cull plus the linkage of pensions to average earnings, and so on).  Continue reading “No less Atlases”

Repeating history: Floods hit Cornwall

Cockermouth floods, 20 November 2009
Cockermouth floods - 20 Nov 2009. Photo: TheNeoplanMan via Flickr

Almost a year to the day after floods devastated Cockermouth, today we see Cornwall facing a similar fate. News reports are showing all-too-familiar scenes of people trapped in their homes and closures to roads and rail cutting off access to Cornwall, because of heavy rains and gale-force winds.

Whatever your age, flooding significantly affects people’s lives. Older people are likely to face particular difficulties during and after floods. For example, floods can prevent people getting access to medicine, care and support which they are reliant on. Continue reading “Repeating history: Floods hit Cornwall”

Ready, steady…. stop

This week, the NHS Alliance holds its annual conference, bringing together a legion of professionals working in primary care and the many people who want to speak to them. One group of professionals is likely to be particularly popular. GPs, who will soon be holding the NHS credit card, will not be short of networking opportunities.

Hip replacement: Photo - jilly andi via Flickr
Photo: Jilly Andi via Flickr

Given the expected budgetary pressures facing the NHS, the conference is perhaps unfortunately titled “The Cutting Edge”. This does, of course, focus the theme on innovation, but out in the real world we’ve started to see the clearest signs of PCTs starting to tighten their belts.

While there have been plenty of anecdotal reports of reductions in services and staff numbers, a second PCT has this week identified specific procedures and treatments it will no longer fund. The headline grabbing treatments would perhaps surprise some that the PCT ever funded them at all – the likes of tattoo removal or hair transplantation. It is debatable to what extent refusing to pay for the featured treatments would impact on a person’s overall health and capacity.

Continue reading “Ready, steady…. stop”

Fighting pensioner poverty… what’s the score?

Last week I opened the Inside Government conference on the future of UK pensions, with a presentation on tackling pensioner poverty. With Steve Webb as a fellow panellist I described  the human impact for the poorest of our inadequate pension system; ‘scored’ current public policy; and set out Age UK’s policy ‘wish list’.

Older person - Photo: Hoveringdog via Flickr
Photo: Hoveringdog via Flickr

Pensioner poverty remains a massive issue across the UK. The stereotype of the rich ‘baby boomer’ means that we often think of older people as wealthy homeowners with significant disposable income. For some, this is true, but income inequality within the older cohort is rising steadily.

Over 1.8 million people over 65 live below the poverty line of just £119 per week for a single person. Those most likely to be poor in later life include single women, people from black and minority ethnic communities and the ‘oldest old’ – people currently in their late 70s and upwards. The poverty among many older people is too often exacerbated by benefits being left unclaimed. Somewhere between £3.6bn and £5.4bn in means-tested benefits for pensioners goes unclaimed every year.  Continue reading “Fighting pensioner poverty… what’s the score?”

NHS Reform: Challenge and opportunity

BBC Four’s new sitcom, Getting On, takes a bleakly comic look at life on an NHS geriatric ward. But a new report this week shows that NHS hospital treatment of many older people is no laughing matter.

The National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death (NCEPOD) launched its new report this week; ‘An Age Old Problem’. Its findings were disturbing, demonstrating that the NHS at present is just not equipped to deal with an ageing population. The report looked at the care given to 820 people aged over 80 from across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, all of whom died within 30 days of having surgery. It highlighted that pain management, malnutrition and delays in receiving care were all common problems. Only 38% of the patients analysed received care that could be classed as ‘good’.  Continue reading “NHS Reform: Challenge and opportunity”

Human rights in small places, close to home

As Eleanor Roosevelt so famously remarked “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. … Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.”

Because home care services are operating in such ‘small places’, out of sight and often out of mind, evidence about how human rights are promoted and protected or otherwise by them can be hard to come by. Shockingly, a previous estimate from the UK Study of Abuse and Neglect of Older People published in 2007 by NatCen and King’s College London, found that 350,000 older people are abused in their own homes (although this figure does not focus solely on abuse carried out by paid carers). Home care services provided by the state are regulated by the Care Quality Commission but it can be difficult for a regulator to shine enough light into these ‘small places’ to illuminate them properly. Earlier this week the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), issued a call for evidence directly to older people and their carers, which it hopes will build up a much clearer picture of how home care services are impacting on older people’s human rights.  Continue reading “Human rights in small places, close to home”

Future of cities: you’re in control

When we think about the future of our cities we often imagine a dystopian, dysfunctional Bladerunner scene. With this in mind it’s not surprising that many plan for the idyll of escaping to the countryside. But shouldn’t our cities be as relevant and pleasurable to older people, as they are to the young professionals drawn there? This morning at the Future of Cities debate, speakers challenged the audience to be more optimistic: cities can change for the better if they put people in charge.

Echoing the government’s proposals for decentralisation and a Big Society, Doug Saunders (author of Arrival Cities) set out his vision for regenerating cities based on autonomous, self-governing neighbourhoods. Based on his research into immigrant neighbourhoods in cities around the world, he believes that, rather than regulation and grand plans for our cities, the people that live there should be freed to create their own social and economic paths.

Put simply, it’s the people and their networks, rather than big business and big government, that should shape cities. If you want to open a shop in your front room you can, you shouldn’t have to battle the planning and trading regulations to do so. The messages seem to point in the same direction – if you want your community, city even, to change then it’s over to you.

At the moment older people are less likely than younger people to feel they can influence local and national decision-making. But there are already ways you can take control. Our new Change One Thing campaign for instance can help you make your neighbourhood better. Take a look, we’re going to be supporting local groups of people in later life to campaign to make their neighbourhoods better.

But there was still a word of caution. An audience member at the debate reminded us that one man’s heaven is another man’s hell. The question still remains: can we all have what we want?