THE BLOG

The "Grey Vote" Could Swing the Election, but Where Is the Minister for Older People?

12/04/2015 19:14 BST | Updated 07/06/2015 10:59 BST

With the General Election a mere matter of weeks away, politicians of all parties are keen to secure the "grey vote", particularly in the marginal seats where older people's votes could make or break the results.

Last month at a conference hosted by Age UK, the Prime Minister was heckled by ninety-one year old Dennis Andrews, who demanded the appointment of a minister for older people. The same issue was also raised by a member of the audience in the first leadership head-to-head just days later.

As Anchor have campaigned on this issue for a number of years, it's great to see the call for Cabinet representation for older people gain so much traction. Clearly this is a topic that the public want to see action on - something that the 137,000 signatures on our Minister for Older People petition would attest to.

We are desperately in need of someone in Government whose remit specifically considers the needs of an under-represented ageing population.

The role would inform cross-departmentally, taking a joined-up approach to health, housing, care, transport and a host of other areas, making sure that the system as a whole is working effectively for our ageing society. Anchor's Grey Pride manifesto highlighted some of the areas in which older people are being let down because the system isn't geared up to providing them with the most appropriate support. For example, we know that older people's wards typically have fewer nurses than general wards and that older people often experience lengthy discharge delays, keeping them in hospital rather than a more appropriate setting.

Such issues are going to become more challenging as we grow older as a society. We need a Minister for Older People to take a lead on addressing these issues and to protect the needs of older people today and tomorrow.

We've had positive support from across the political spectrum over the last three years, and we very much hope that the next Government will make the long-awaited appointment of a Minister for Older People.

We know that taking part in the democratic process and for older people to have their say at the ballot box is really important and that's why Anchor has developed a guide to help older people to vote and ensure that they are able to have their say.

The superb staff in our care homes will also be working hard to make sure residents are able to cast their votes too - one of our Care Home Managers, Alison, recently told me that "myself and the team always offer to assist anyone to get to the polling station by providing an arm to walk with or a pusher for a wheelchair. Sometimes just matching up with another tenant as a walking buddy helps if someone is anxious about going alone."

The next few weeks will be an interesting time for all of us, and as Parliament is now dissolved, we will be watching the campaign trail with interest. We know that older people want - and deserve - to be listened to. We're urging political parties and candidates to listen to older voters and to take their views on board, not just at election time but throughout the year too.