By Fiona Collins, Storyteller based in Wales
How it is
According to Age UK 3.8 million people over the age of 65 live alone, 58% of whom are over 75. Two million pensioners in the UK live in poverty.
Older people are more likely to live in poor quality housing or housing in need of serious repair, particularly when they live in socially disadvantaged areas.
Isolation, loneliness, and boredom are common issues among elderly people, which may be compounded by mobility issues. As they see their friends passing away, there are also fewer opportunities to make new friends and get involved in social engagements.
How it could be
By learning from cultures where elders are respected and honoured for their wisdom, we now live in multi-generational settings where older people have a voice and can play an active part in the daily lives of our communities. Our affordable living and social spaces are designed so that young and old can enjoy each other’s company, our elders can access help when needed and live independently for as long as possible.
We recognise the vital role elders play in helping us grow more meaningful relationships and stronger communities and we make sure those who care for them earn enough for a good life.
How we make it happen
This is our space to share ideas for how we can make the vision a reality. Please share your thoughts in the comments below and, if possible, links to existing initiatives.
1) United for all ages aims to create stronger communities and a stronger country by bringing older and younger people together and tackling some of Britain’s biggest social and economic issues. Their Together in the 2020s: twenty ideas for creating a Britain for all ages by 2030 report sets out 20 ideas to create a better society for people of all ages and to promote intergenerational activity.
“Our vision is a Britain where in 2030 people of all ages are respected and valued, where they can mix and share activities and experiences, living alongside each other in homes and communities that are fit for life, work, learning and play.”
For further information on this and other reports see the CPA’s Policies on Ageing web pages.
2) Closer to home, we can start by talking sensitively and often with elders in our own families about their needs as they grow older, so that their wishes can be known and taken into account when decisions are made about their living circumstances.
3) We can decide to pay more attention to the elderly in our communities. Just slowing down for a chat is often more important than we realise. This NHS page offers a number of suggestions on how to make a difference to elders you know
4) The care workers taking care of our elderly are often on minimum wage or below. Unison are campaigning for better wages and working conditions for carers. Find out more and support their work here.
5) If you would like to volunteer Age UK matches volunteers to elders
You may also be interested in this vision: Everyone has a safe and affordable home
Where it’s happening
Springhill in Stroud is a co-housing project. The older people who live there have their own private space and are part of a community, which can help and support them, as well as being supported by them.
“Taking care of the elderly gives us an insight into unconditional love and helps us love them in the same manner. Following the example of indigenous cultures we could grant our elders an honoured place by the fire, recognising and giving respect to their wisdom.”Fiona Collins, in honour of Ed Fisher 1941 – 2020