THE BLOG
23/10/2017 06:30 BST | Updated 23/10/2017 06:31 BST

Why I Am Launching Parliament's First Inquiry Into The Rights Of Older People

Pensions, social care or perhaps a national scandal highlighted by a documentary; this is the only time older people get any attention from Government. The stakes are high, as are the costs to finance and reputation.

Even still, 1.2 million people find themselves without the basic care they need and the levels of pensioner poverty are rising once again.

But is this really what we want from Government? Reaction. Each of the 15.3m over 60's lives have been weaved uniquely and have a different offer or need for the future.

Having worked with older people as an NHS professional, a physiotherapist in acute care, for the best part of 20 years, my passion has always been to enable people to live fulfilled lives. Now in Parliament, I want to push Government to make this happen.

Nations of South America and many in sub Saharan Africa are calling for a UN Charter on the Rights for Older People. We have seen how such rights have transformed the lives of children, giving them not only the protections they need, but the space to flourish. So why is the story so different for older people here in the UK? I'm determined that it changes.

As the recently appointed Chair of the All Parliamentary Party Group on Older People and Aging, from today I will be launching Parliament's first inquiry into the rights of older people. We will start by looking at the global scene, as well as examining what is happening here in the UK. We will also be putting a focus on the work that has already taken place in Wales, where they do not only have a Charter of Rights, but also a Commission for the Rights of Older People.

Of course we want to see the rights to good care and financial security, but we must expand this to a suite of rights that enable older people to have a real say in their lives, and far more life choices. Many older people are carers of lifelong partners or grandchildren, others still work or take on essential volunteer roles, some still run businesses; some run marathons. However we all know that many older people struggle, and too many experience abuse.

To change the culture, we must understand the huge asset that older people are to our nation and the enormous debt of gratitude that we owe to those with more years than ourselves. We also need a Government that is committed to solving the range of challenges we face and to ensure security and dignity for all.

Older people should have access to transport, to appropriate housing and to leisure. To choices and protections, and basic rights like warmth, hydration and food, healthcare and safety.

Isolation and loneliness blights too many in the latter years. The pain of not seeing or speaking to someone, having a word of encouragement, a listening ear, physical contact or love. It's so obvious why the lights dim physically, mentally and emotionally. While challenging to put such deep needs into statute, with a Charter of Rights we can ensure that older people are supplied with the vital connections to live as fuller life as possible, and with the protections in place to make sure that they are delivered.

When the final months come, what rights do older people have? Labour's commitment to a National Care Service will give the vital security that so many, but not all, will need, providing support and independence in older age, removing the worry or fear, and enabling people to live their lives with the dignity they deserve.

We have much to do, but I want a life well lived to be a life well valued. As politicians, when we look into the eyes of an older person, we must be confident that we have done everything within our power to maximise dignity. Dignity will be at the core of our inquiry, and I trust a statutory Charter on the Rights for Older People will be at the end.