Even if you check before you go to visit places of interest, you may arrive and find: doors too narrow; a step in the way; a flight of steps even.  Or the gravel is so deep, the wheelchair won’t move.

Baby boomers: the cheek of living so long!

It’s pretty hard to retain one’s self-esteem as an older person in the present climate of political and media blaming, what with the NHS collapsing under the strain of all us baby-boomers, (no, that’s a deliberate political choice to under-fund the NHS for decades), and us having the nerve to carry on living and burdening the young with our increasing needs.

Did we choose to be born? No, it was our parents’ fault, thrilled to be reunited after a world war and looking forward to building a life and a family together. Little did they know, decades later, their offspring would be living too long and sometimes being ill. The nerve! Yes, I know, complex health problems due to age, blah blah. We are, allegedly, the fifth richest country in the world, and yet spend less per person on healthcare than many other countries.

Living with post-polio syndrome

Take myself, for example, who had the misfortune to contract polio in the long-ago ‘50s and as a result, developed post-polio syndrome 30 years ago and now use a wheelchair. This brings its own set of problems, accessibility being just one. Despite the Disability Discrimination Act being passed within living memory, houses are still being built without a) wider doors b) level access – and even when this is included, the turning circle is not adequate, c) no downstairs toilet.

Accessibility problems hold me back

Many places are inaccessible. Often, one is limited to modern shopping malls, and even then, you find the goods are crammed into every available space like the central aisle, and people have to kindly move out of your way. Or not. As they see fit.

Even if you check before you go to visit places of interest, you may arrive and find: doors too narrow; a step in the way; a flight of steps even. Or the gravel is so deep, the wheelchair won’t move.  

And holidays – what about them? Well, unless you go on a specialised disability site, you will find that many cottages\B&Bs\hotels, for example, will list everything from “dogs welcome” to “rocking horse provided”, but absolutely no information regarding wheelchair accessible accommodation. I know not everywhere can be accessible, but, oh, it does get tedious! I won’t even begin to relate the difficulties on public transport.

The way one is treated by the social services and other agencies is deeply traumatic and humiliating.

The humiliation of disability assessments

Living on benefits, especially after working all your life then, due to circumstances beyond one’s control and being unable to work, is very hard. The way one is treated by the social services and other agencies is deeply traumatic and humiliating. For example, disability assessments – as to how much help one is entitled to –have always been horrible, but under the present government, is a deliberate policy of lies and misrepresentation.  Believe me, no-one would actively volunteer to undergo these.

Care agencies and care homes are out for profit, and exploit both their employees and their clients. Understaffing, a direct result of considering the care home/agencies owners’ profit, not the well-being of their clients and staff, is the guiding principle. That is my experience – I daresay, and hope, there are exceptions.

As an older woman and a wheelchair-user, I get ignored or patronised

There is not enough political will to give older people the respect they deserve, and I would say, especially to older women. Generally, men are listened to and paid more attention, which goes for life in general. It is infuriating!

And if one is using a wheelchair, one gets talked down to. People don’t seem to realise one gets a stiff neck craning up at someone. Never mind them talking down to one in other ways, e.g: “I could do with one of those… do you have a licence for that?” etc.  Please. Enough already. And those are the less insulting comments.

Many people suffer from social isolation and loneliness, which austerity and cuts have exacerbated in all areas of society. For older people, feelings of lack of purpose after a busy working life, families living at some distance – even abroad sometimes, and of course, ill health and bereavement, all contribute to feeling lost, redundant and surplus to requirements. Many people enjoy a full and active retirement, but many do not, due to the above and other reasons.

Have you been affected by any of these issues?

If you have been affected by any of the issues described in this blog, or simply need someone to reach out to, you can call Independent Age’s freephone helpline for information and advice on 0800 319 6789.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of Independent Age.

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