The Government needs to create a new visionary framework to help the UK’s aging society prepare well entering later life – say Age UK.
The charity says that longer life expectancy creates unprecedented opportunities, but also presents the country with challenges that the Government must tackle and provide for with informed knowledge and vision. The framework should provide older people with protection and security whilst still enabling them to fulfil their potential and live their daily life – including being supported by businesses who need to adapt to the reality of older workers and consumers.
Older people in the UK are now more diverse than ever before, with a disparate mix of incomes, ethnicities, health needs and aspirations. Age UK say that increasing life expectancy is leading many individuals to re-evaluate their expectations of later life, but businesses and government are not adapting quickly enough. Their research shows that the over-65s market is worth £109 billion a year but older people are often unable to find products that meet their needs.
Age UK is concerned that the benefits society would gain from increased life expectancy could be ignored if the country fails to adapt to an aging society. It has called on both public and private sector leaders to embrace demographic changes.
Michelle Mitchell, charity director general of Age UK said: 'We can’t afford to keep our heads in the sand over one of the biggest challenges we face as a nation – our ageing population. We need to be better prepared as individuals, in government and in the private sector if we are to make the changes we need.
'Increasing life expectancy is one of the great triumphs of medical and social progress. We now need to work to ensure that those extra years of life are as fulfilling as possible for older people. To do this we need, as a society, to jettison traditional views of what life should be after 65 without losing sight that many older people need increasing care and support in their later years.
'The government’s abolition of the mandatory retirement age and introduction of automatic enrolment into workplace pensions are all moves in the right direction, but we can’t afford to take our foot off the pedal if we want to create a society that both cares for and makes the most of the potential of its older people.'
Age UK’s call comes in its Agenda for Later Life 2012 report which outlines the charity’s calls to action and also presents a unique look at life for older people in austerity Britain - from health, to income, discrimination, housing, transport and financial services. While the latest figures show older people are now more diverse than ever, many are united by struggling to cope with the rising cost of living and fear what the future may hold for them.
The statistics show:
•3.3 million households aged over 60 in England are in fuel poverty
•There are 1.8 million older people living in poverty, I6% of all people aged over 60
•Over 1 million aged over 65 are malnourished
•There is a rising gap in life expectancy for men between the best and worst local authorities in England
•16% of people aged over 65 say it’s difficult to get to their nearest supermarket
•15% of people aged over 65 say it’s difficult to get to their GP
•24% of people say it’s difficult to get to their bank
•61% of people in the UK think that age discrimination is widespread (up from 48%)
•31% of people aged 65-74 volunteer at least once a month
•There are 1.41million people aged over 85 in the UK
Age UK's Agenda for Later Life 2012 report comes in the wake of the Government’s recent surprise announcement that ground-breaking legislation to ban age discrimination in goods and services, including the NHS and the provision of social care, has been delayed for at least another six months. Age UK believes this sends a worrying message about its commitment to fighting prejudice against older people.
The report is being launched at the Agenda for Later Life 2012 conference tomorrow, Thursday 8 March.