Let’s talk about death and dying

Let's Talk about Death and Dying! cover

This blog post was contributed by Lesley Carter, Joint Head of Health Influencing at Age UK. 

“How people die remains in the memory of those who live on”, Cicely Saunders (1918-2005), founder of the modern hospice movement. 

Positive advances in health care and public health mean that most of us will die later in life. Hooray! Yet most of us have never had a conversation with someone we love about death and dying and actually most of us don’t really want to. I think it’s a generational thing. But this is not the best place to be – this approach will not help us cope with our own death, or that of a loved one, or to manage our own feelings during death and bereavement.

Continue reading “Let’s talk about death and dying”

More cities sign up as Age Friendly Cities

This blog was contributed by Emily Georghiou, Age UK’s Public Affairs Adviser – Age Action. 

I recently had the privilege to attend the 2013 signing of the Dublin Declaration on Age Friendly Cities and Communities on behalf of Age UK. Over 40 mayors and representatives were present from over 60 cities and municipalities across Europe, all committed to making their localities great places to grow old.

photoThe Dublin Declaration was originally signed in 2011, during the 1st International Conference on Age Friendly Cities.

Building on this and timed to coincide with the Irish Presidency and EU Summit on Active and Healthy Ageing, the Dublin Declaration 2013 includes a new EU pledge to uphold a set of principles to measure, benchmark and drive future development of age friendly cities. Continue reading “More cities sign up as Age Friendly Cities”

Attitudes to ageing

With an ageing population and increasing numbers of us living in to late old age, attitudes to later life have never been more relevant. At the same time, our straitened economic position and pressures on public services to meet financial challenges whilst providing for these growing numbers of over 6os, means the debate often hinges on economic and political issues.

440x210_old-man-portrait

The ‘burden’ of our ageing population is frequently stressed, accompanied by an emphasis on inequalities between generations that incite division.

Yet, one of the strongest messages to come out of a session I chaired last week at Age UK’s For Later Life conference was that the media furore on the ‘burden of ageing’ is not reflected in public attitudes.

No satisfaction

Ben Page of Ipsos Mori revealed polling showing that 68% of people aren’t satisfied with the Government’s treatment of older people and that care for the elderly is consistently amongst the top three scoring issues of concern to people of all ages.

I believe this polling strikes at the heart of the debate about attitudes to later life, illustrating the gap between political and media rhetoric and the views of the individual. But why is there such a gap? How do we form our attitudes to later life? And are they showing signs of changing, heralding strains on intergenerational relations? Continue reading “Attitudes to ageing”

Older women and care: are they invisible to the sisterhood?

This blog is an edited version of an article appearing in the International Longevity Centre’s Compendium on Older Women, published for International Women’s Day. 

As women, we outlive men in nearly all parts of the world, outnumbering our male counterparts across the globe by 100 million. But though we live longer than men and are stronger in number, we are also likely to spend more years in poor health.

This is reflected in the gender profile of users of health and social care. Across OECD countries ¾ of long-term care users are women. Older women are therefore disproportionately affected by inadequacies of care and support.

Paradoxically, though, older women are also the main providers of care. photographer: Claudia JankeAcross OECD countries 2/3 of informal carers aged 50+ are female. In developing countries, in addition to informal care, a significant amount of the care older women provide is as a grandparent to children whose parents have migrated or have been killed by HIV/AIDS or conflict. Continue reading “Older women and care: are they invisible to the sisterhood?”

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?”

Why we must celebrate – not ignore – ageing

 This guest blog was contributed by Julia Unwin, Chief Executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. This forms part of our Expert Series which highlights the work of those influencing, designing, commissioning and delivering services for people in later life.

This decade is one of transition – transition as we adapt to our economic circumstances, transition as we try to reduce the impact of climate change, and

Julia Unwin, Chief Executive, Joseph Rowntree Foundation

transition as we conserve resources of all kinds. But it is also a time of transition in terms of demography.

We are an ageing society. This is a cause for great celebration, and one of the triumphs of our time. But it does also represent a transition, as we get used to the fact that we are indeed all ageing and this has implications for us personally, and for policy-makers. We can bury our heads in the sand and pretend this is not really happening. We can hide behind jokes about getting older, behave as if ‘it won’t happen to us’ and allow policy-makers to ignore this major challenge to the ways in which we organise ourselves. We can collude with the view that once we are no longer economically active, we are no longer worthy of consideration. That way we will never have a sensible settlement for meeting the real costs of long term care. We will never resolve a better way for providing pensions. We will continue to think that more of the same will provide answers, even though we know it won’t. And we will continue to treat residential care as a dread destination, rather than a place of opportunity and growth.

The alternative is to embrace this change, and recognise the great prize of a longer life, seize the opportunities that it offers and stop being scared. To do this we need to hear from people who are themselves older, understand their very different experiences, and start to think much more honestly, and much more creatively, about the ways in which we want to shape a good old age, both for ourselves as individuals and as society. An ageing society can be one that values difference, and recognises the very rich and different contribution that we will all be able to make. An ageing society can be one that uses all the skills, experience and talents of all of us as we age. It would recognise that older age is not only about loss, there are rewards and excitement too. It would therefore be a society that is better for all of us. It would be one in which frailty is no longer equated with powerlessness, dependence no longer seen as weakness.

 If we start to see growing old as an important and natural transition in our own lives, we will also be able to build a society that makes this transition in a just, considered and creative way. Such a society will be able to respond to the changing needs of all parts of its population, without hiding behind lazy stereotypes and prejudice. It will structure policies and practice that meet the needs of real people, not just imagined nightmares. 

In a good society, ageing will be seen as an inevitable and important part of life’s journey. Older people themselves will shape, design and provide the services they want. Policy-makers, practitioners and older people together will develop activities and services that meet our very different needs. Services and activities for older people will be at the heart of communities meeting the needs of all generations, shaped by the needs, aspirations and desires of older people but meeting all our needs. Intergenerational activity benefits us all. It allows us to share scarce resources, but also share the joys, and the pains of ageing. Our changing demography provides us with a golden opportunity to re-shape dramatically our attitudes to ageing, and to engage in that great transition with creativity and with courage. Failing to take that opportunity means that the lives of all of us will be considerably poorer.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s ‘A Better Life’ programme aims to hear from older people about what they want and value in life, and help bring their words and images to a wider range of people.

Find out more about the ‘A Better Life’ programme

Find out more about Age UK’s Expert Series

Read the latest blog posts from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation