We call on the UK government to establish a Commissioner for Older People and Ageing in England to act as an independent champion for older people and ensure that policy and practice across government considers the long-term needs of people in later life and the implications of our ageing population on society.
Our society is ageing, and policymakers should embrace this demographic shift. Currently 11 million people are aged 65 or over, and in less than 20 years over 17 million (1 in 4) of us will be over 65. Growing older is a privilege, but an ageing population will require collaboration and joined-up thinking to deliver innovative policy solutions and meet the needs of the future, including alternatives to accessing information and services other than online.
The support people need in later life from institutions like the NHS and social care, and social security systems are critical, but no single government department can respond to these issues alone. A commissioner would facilitate the long-term planning that is needed to ensure our economy and public services are adapting to demographic shifts, while also enabling more people to age well. This would not just benefit older people, but our country as a whole.
A sharper focus on the range of experiences in later life is required. Not everyone enjoys a financially secure retirement – indeed an alarming proportion are struggling to make ends meet – and too often, older people’s rights and interests are forgotten by decision-makers, particularly as we face unprecedented crisis.
But there is an opportunity to fix this. Older people want to be part of the country’s vision, now, and in the future. As our older population becomes increasingly diverse, we believe that older people urgently need a champion at the heart of the government, working alongside the Older People’s Commissioners for Wales and Northern Ireland, to help make the UK the best place in the world to grow old.