THE BLOG

The UK Is Set Up to Grow Old Disgracefully - It's Time for a Change

30/07/2014 15:29 BST | Updated 28/09/2014 10:59 BST

We all know it. Older people live it and younger generations understand it. Think tanks continue to issue warnings about it. The health and social care sector, politicians and the media have raised the alarm about it. Yet successive governments ignore it.

As a country we're growing older and society needs to adapt to cater for us as we all live longer. On average, a child born today can expect to live to be 92. It is chilling to imagine the old age they face given our current failure to respond to massive demographic change.

We are in desperate need of a better response to our ageing society - for the benefit of the older people of today and tomorrow. The current situation is bleak. Nurse to patient ratios in hospitals are lower for older people, there is a daunting lack of supply of retirement property and over the past four years, social care budgets have been cut by 26 per cent despite a 14% increase in demand for support.

There is urgent work to be done and we're worryingly close to missing the boat.

I observed the recent Cabinet reshuffle with dismay as it failed yet again to appoint a Minister dedicated to the significant needs of an ever-growing portion of our society. The challenges would be tackled more effectively by one individual in Government having responsibility for ensuring we are better prepared for our ageing society.

Today, older people's charity Anchor is issuing a rallying call to our leaders in Westminster in a bid to transform the way services are planned and designed for older people. The case for change is set out in our Grey Pride Manifesto which supports growing calls for a Minister for Older People.

We are not alone. Findings published today show 77 per cent of over-65s agree that one individual in the Cabinet should be dedicated to the needs of older people. Support for such a role is also prominent among younger people with 62 per cent of 18 to 34 year olds who expressed a view backing the move. Two years ago 137,000 people signed a petition calling on Government to appoint a dedicated Minister for Older People. In June 2012 MPs voted in favour of a motion calling on the Government to consider making such an appointment.

We are sleep-walking into a series of crises while other countries are making progress. In Canada, Minister of State for Seniors Alice Wong is driving a more joined-up approach. Nearer to home, the Older People's Commissioners in Wales and Northern Ireland have started to address issues relating to their ageing populations. Why isn't there one in England? Our findings today also show that the appointment of an older people's commissioner is backed by 73% of over-65s.

Governments have so far failed to address these issues and, without radical change, we face an old age of increasing polarisation, suffering and loneliness. Only through a dedicated Minister and Commissioner can Government support a happy old age and send a clear message that it is serious about addressing the needs of today's older people - and the many more to come...

To read Anchor's Grey Pride manifesto please visit: http://www.anchor.org.uk/media-centre/campaigns/minister-for-older-people/the-grey-pride-manifesto