Read the first eight wishes in part one of Simon's blog.
9. Do the right thing by Attendance Allowance. The government is right to consult on transferring it to local authorities. With the rise of personal budgets, it makes no sense to have two separate systems – one local, one national – assessing older people’s disabilities and providing cash to help them. But the cash had better not diminish in the transfer: there’ll be hell to pay if AA goes the way of the Independent Living Fund.
10. More supported housing schemes. Not enough are being built yet they allow older people to downsize, freeing up larger properties. Isn’t that the definition of win-win?
11. A renewed drive to find the 1 million plus pensioners who fail to claim pensioner credit and so live in chronic poverty. With the introduction of the new flat-rate pension scheme in April, there’s a real risk that we forget about this group yet they are arguably the most deprived individuals in the country.
12. Some rational debate about universal benefits for pensioners. If we’re going to have a proper go at sorting out health and social care (see number 1) we have to consider them in the mix. That means avoiding the knee-jerk but calamitous option of means-testing winter fuel payment but it also means taking a deep breath and looking at an option like taxing it.
13. ‘No’ to using age as a proxy for effectiveness, such as the proposal to force peers to retire when they reach 80. Lord knows the Lords needs reform but how on earth can it make sense to forcibly retire a vocal, active peer like Baroness Bakewell just because she’s had a certain number of birthdays? It’s not just that this is a bad decision, it’s the credence it gives to the principle of arbitrary age limits in other areas of life.
14. Start treating older people’s falls as a health priority, beginning with an integrated campaign across housing, health and social care to reduce the number by, say, 10%. We know that falls, and the hip fractures that they cause, can be life-changing events, beginning a process of deterioration in life quality and increasing dependency. Is it really beyond us to work out the most effective ways of preventing them and implementing that across the country?
15. Build on the increasing public awareness of loneliness among older people, going beyond the evocation of sympathy (see John Lewis ad) towards tackling some of the causes. That means no longer assuming older age is a time of decline and increased redundancy for older people but rather as a time when they (we, I’m 54 this year) retain – but may well start to change – their role in the workplace and within families, communities, society.
16. Finally, an end to routinely disparaging language when talking about older people, starting with the use of ‘grandma’ or ‘granny’ as shorthand for all older women. But we do need words to describe different degrees of frailty and vulnerability so don’t be afraid to use the word ‘elderly’, just don’t apply it to everyone over the age of 60.