Evidence To House Of Lords Select Committee On Demographic Change

by Dr. Ros Altmann

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  • Attitudes towards older people and notion of 'early retirement' out of date
  • Outlawing age discrimination and abolishing default retirement age is welcome
  • Reforming social care is urgent priority
  • Rethinking retirement is already underway

Saga is today publishing its submission to the House of Lords Select Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change.

Dr Ros Altmann, Director-General of Saga, comments:

"Medical advances in the past few decades mean that people are living much healthier and longer lives and are not necessarily 'old' at 50, 60 or even 70 anymore. Changing the culture of age requires a change of attitude: overcoming age discrimination, ensuring older people are not 'written off' just because of their age and embracing the opportunities that are now available.

"The government's decision to abolish the default retirement age is an excellent first step in moving towards the new future for work and retirement, with retirement becoming a more gradual process. Part-time work in later life will ensure that people remain active and healthy, it will contribute to their retirement income and will be a benefit to our economy."

Public services need reform:
"Public services need to keep pace with the changing population and its needs. It would be enormously helpful if councils and Government were to plan over the longer term for the needs of older people. A five or ten year plan for increasing numbers of older citizens is recommended."

Social care is the biggest problem in local public services for older people
"It is not possible for care to be entirely state funded, there has to be a partnership approach. It is important that we start to fund care needs, in combination with consideration of our health spending - we need to encourage private individuals to realise the need to have some money set aside by each family. Incentives for care saving plans, with families being encouraged to join together to fund care in a tax free savings environment such as an ISA, would be a good start.

Need to focus on keeping people in their homes for longer
"Greater emphasis on care in the home, rather than in hospitals or residential care homes is required. Building more retirement villages, community housing that older people may want to move to but can still live in on their own. Housing developments suited to older people, who like having gardens, need entertainments, clubs, medical or fitness facilities as they get older are not really being built, but are much needed."

Saga suggests the following steps to generate a national debate on the changes needed to address the ageing population:

  • Highlight examples of people who are finding fulfilment working in later life, but in a part-time capacity.
  • Encourage employers to keep older workers on part-time if they want to.
  • Start a national plan for how to ensure suitable housing and adaptations for housing to become age-friendly.
  • Start a national information and education campaign to encourage people to take the small steps needed to age well and to explain the social care system.
  • Introduce incentives to help people save for their later life care needs.
  • Consider a cross-departmental approach to helping improve older people's lives.
  • Provide free information via the NHS on benefits of adapting homes for safety to prevent falls and benefits of some care in the home as preventive measures.
  • Incentivise financial and lifestyle planning from mid-life onwards, to help people fulfil their own potential, plan the future that fits their own lives best and understand all the options that might be open to them, so they can make the best personal choice for themselves.
  • National awards for those helping others to cut down their working life, to work part-time or retrain.

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