A guest blog from Professor Alan Walker, Professor of Social Policy & Social Gerontology at The University of Sheffield, on how the creation of a social policy for ageing could lead to a better later life for all.
If we are concerned about the quality of later life we must focus on the ageing process as a whole, the life course, and not only the last segment of it. This is because the financial, social and mental resources that people possess in old age are often determined at much earlier stages of the life course. This is obvious in the case of pensions, which depend massively on occupation, but is also true with regard to physical and mental health. For example, childhood deprivation is associated with raised blood pressure in later life.
After such a wet winter, a bit of sun may sound like no bad thing, but people often underestimate the effect of high temperatures on older people: the 2003 heatwave led to an alarming 22 per cent increase in mortality among people 75+ in England and Wales. So I was very pleased to be invited to a roundtable held by the Parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee, as part of their Inquiry into Heatwaves: Adapting to Climate Change.
This week is Nutrition and Hydration Week, an excellent campaign which celebrates food and drink as a way of maintaining health and wellbeing. As part of the Week, the Malnutrition Task Force have written a guest blog looking at malnutrition among older people in the community and highlighting wonderful examples of initiatives that can help tackle this.
Food is a marvellous thing. Breathing in the scent of our favourite meal and savouring the taste as we eat and enjoy it are two of life’s great pleasures.
Food gives us the energy to keep active, stay mentally alert, and remain physically well, which means fewer visits to the doctors.
Keeping well-nourished and hydrated is so important to each and everyone one of us at every stage of our lives, particularly as we get older.
However, sadly, not everyone is so favoured. Latest estimates show up to 1.3 million of our older friends, relatives and neighbours are malnourished or at risk.
Around 850,000 people are estimated to have dementia in the UK, and that figure is expected to rise to 1 million by 2025.
Rising prevalence has led to a number of new initiatives focussing on the condition. In 2015, the Prime Minister’s Challenge on dementia 2020 set out more than 50 commitments with the hope of making England a world leader in dementia care, research and awareness by 2020.
Efforts like this are starting to reap rewards, and there have been recent improvements in the rates of diagnosis and new funds being developed to research the condition.
However, despite these positive steps, we know people with dementia and their carers still find it hard to get good quality care and support or to lead as active a life in the community as they could.
With this in mind, Age UK started looking at what ‘living well’ meant to people with dementia and their carers, and from there we branched out to find an array of services and approaches that could help them achieve this. Our findings are published in a new report, ‘Promising Approaches to Living Well with Dementia.’
Marjorie Barker blogs about “overwhelming” loneliness she felt in later life, what she did to combat it and the importance of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness.
When you’re alone, you feel that you can’t achieve anything. This is why the work of Age UK and the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness is so important.
Nobody anticipates loneliness, it just happens. For me it came a decade ago, when my husband Alan developed vascular dementia and I became his carer. Not only did the man I had shared so much with no longer recognise me, but I also lost contact with everything and everyone I had known before. I couldn’t go out, as Alan could not be left alone.
Meaningful conversation was no longer possible with my husband, and for seven years my main form of human interaction came at Alan’s appointments at the memory clinic.
A guest blog from Judith Potts on a little-know condition called Charles Bonnet Syndrome, and the charity Esme’s Umbrella she set up to promote awareness of it.
My Mother was an independent lady, who lived happily on her own, enjoyed her social life and – despite her failing eyesight through late diagnosed glaucoma – completed the Telegraph crossword daily.
We noticed that her confidence was beginning to wane but what none of us knew – including her GP and optometrist – was that, as her eyesight diminished, there was a chance she might begin to see things which were not there. Her ophthalmologist could have warned us, but he chose not to do so.
On Tuesday 6December, Age UK launched a film and kickstarted a lively discussion at the Britain Against Cancer Conference. This is a unique event which brings together NHS professionals, patients, third sector organisations, policy experts, carers, and commercial organisations to ensure that cancer stays high on the agenda for the top decision-makers in the country.
This was Age UK’s first time at the conference. Why were we there?