All blogs are the views of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Independent Age.
Going to the toilet is, obviously, a basic human function just like breathing, eating and drinking. Something we all need to do. And something most of us prefer to do in private. At home, this is not a problem and at one time, in the not-too-distant past, it wasn’t a problem when we were out and about either. Local Authorities accepted that one of the services that they provided was adequate public toilets.
More recently there has been a significant drop in the number of public toilets in the UK. This is already having an effect on many older people for whom toilet facilities are not a convenience but a necessity. The increasing lack of toilets limits the number of places that older people can visit and how long they can stay there.
Public toilets can be a lifeline for those who could otherwise be isolated and lonely as they enable these people to leave their homes and live fuller lives as members of the community. If people move around less, their mobility is likely to be affected, and isolation contributes to loneliness with all the psychological and health problems it can bring.
But the negative effect of public toilet closures is not confined to older people. Groups such as the disabled, pregnant women, people on medication and families with young children are also suffering. Life is also made more difficult for taxi drivers, delivery drivers, street cleaners, tourists and so on. Bearing these facts in mind, you would think that local authorities would make public toilets a much higher priority. Instead, they have been closing them for decades – long before the cuts.
The justification often cited for public toilet closures is that they are not a legal requirement, unlike schools and social services. The same argument is now being used to justify the closure of leisure centres, libraries, community centres and so on. We appear to be witnessing a situation where the survival of an organisation is more important than the welfare of the citizens it was set up to serve.
Taken to its logical conclusion, this trend could result in local authorities being reduced to acting as agencies for the UK and devolved governments. We ought now to be questioning the need for local councillors as fewer and fewer decisions are made at local authority level. Could a drastic cull of councillors result in savings which could be used for public toilet provision?
What do you think needs to happen to make the UK the best country to grow older in?
What concerns you most about growing older and why?
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