Pensioners demand a voice to defeat ageism in Britain

Pensioners discuss their contribution to Britain

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People with decades of skills, expertise and knowledge say they are discarded by a younger generation who fail to understand their needs. Experts say Britain faces some of its biggest challenges since 1945 as the population ages, with more than ­­20 percent of the population 65 and over by 2030.

Today a brutally honest manifesto for change is launched to address the crisis.

Drawn up by Anchor, England’s largest non-profit provider of housing and care for people in later life, it demands a series of measures to transform society for the benefit of all.

Chief executive Sarah Jones said: “The challenges for people in later life are very real, with many feeling undervalued and misunderstood. Our research has shown 57 percent of older people say they are overlooked in society.

“Tapping into the unlocked potential of older people will be key to overcoming misconceptions of later life in an ageing population. Older people have so much more to give and it’s vital we ­continue to support their contribution to society. We believe these challenges should be addressed head-on ­and conclude with commitments to action.”

The report reveals eight in 10 older people can contribute more after retirement but feel – written off” while experts have called for the creation of a tsar to champion older people’s interests.

Anchor supports the Daily Express campaign to appoint a Minister for Older People to ­give 13 million retirees a voice.

Its manifesto, called Unlocking Later Life, wants a National Ageing Strategy, putting the needs of older people first in town planning decisions, with intergenerational activities a compulsory part of the schools’ National Curri­culum so youngsters understand the needs of older people.

Anchor says councils should allocate 10 percent of sites for age-restricted housing while social care reform and assisting older people to navigate a digital world should also be a priority.

Former pensions minister Ros Altmann, 66, was set to be made minister for ageing in 2015 but it was vetoed by the Depart­ment for Work and Pensions. She said: “Many just want old people to disappear. And the frenetic pace of life these days has left so many feeling marginalised. We need someone to take this issue by the scruff of the neck and stand up for this generation.”

Dame Esther Rantzen, 82, president of The Silver Line, a 24-hour helpline for older people, said: “Ageism is so pervasive. Every aspect of an older person’s life is divided between government dep-artments, which means they end up at the bottom of the list of pol-itical priorities. Reluctant to complain, their voices go unheard.”

A government spokesman said: “We prioritised health and social care in the Autumn Statement, making up to £7.5billion available over the next two years to support adult social care – the biggest funding increase in history.”

”People don’t think we’re useful but we have skills”

Cheryl Veal, 74, has been a resident at Anchor’s housing scheme, The Battery in Newquay, since May.

Her experience of later life has left her feeling frustrated at the way others view older people in society.

She said: “If I had to pick three words to describe my experience in later life it would be overlooked, undervalued and invisible. People don’t think we’re useful, and we have skills and experience which we’d like to contribute. They are not called upon.”

Divorced Cheryl used to be an accountant but now volunteers for The Cinnamon Trust charity which helps older people and the disabled care for their pets.

She thinks people’s misconceptions about pensioners are outdated and a barrier to allowing them to fully contribute to society once they reach a certain age.

”We have so much more untapped potential”

Martin Hiles, 74, has been a resident at Anchor’s retirement property, Hanover Court in Durham, since December 2020.

Like millions of others with lots left to give, he feels frustrated at being forced to step back when he could still be working or contributing to society in a meaningful way.

Martin is divorced with an adult daughter and currently lives alone having spent much of his life working in Africa providing advice on transport systems and infrastructure.

He said there are serious misconceptions of what people’s abilities are in later life and this is a contributing factor to older people being overlooked.

Martin said: “We have so much more to give society, so much untapped potential. I see job adverts that I could do but I fear being penalised for trying to enter the job market again and trying to contribute more.”

Five ways to give older people a boost

  1. Launch a National Ageing Strategy, with a focus on engagement with older people and empowering them to pursue the lives they desire.
  2. Focus on the needs of older people in town planning decisions, ensuring services and facilities meet their needs.
  3. Put intergenerational activities on the National Curriculum, with an Age Positive Month in all schools.
  4. Create a Minister and a Commissioner for Older People to work in government on key issues for 13 million retirees.
  5. Support for older people who want to upskill their technological capabilities.

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