Welcome to 2017! Where we’re asking “has life got better?”.
Over the last few years I have written about a wide variety of issues and concerns – many of which are a real concern, not just to older people, but the wider community.
So just out of interest, I thought I would look back on the various articles I have written for the Opinion Exchange to discover what has changed and particularly what has changed for the better. I fear I am in fantasy land!
In 2010, “Education, Education, Education” was the mantra but sadly this did not include older people or provide access to training. Has this changed? NO and – with austerity – this appears unlikely to change.
Heat and Eat Campaign
The right to heat and eat was a campaign that had been going on since time began and yet we are still talking about it. Why? Will there never be a right to heat and eat?!
We started off in 2012 with the media – the language they used, their stereotyping of older people, their portrayal of everyone over 50 as exactly the same etc. Has there been a change? Has the language in describing older people changed? Has their attitude to older people changed? Do they even see us as part of the human race and their community? NO – I haven’t seen much change for the better – Have you?
The Care.Data Scandal
2013 was the year of the government coming up with innovative ideas on how to sell our personal data to researchers, universities, insurers and commercial companies. The idea of your GP medical records being sold for £1 – including all details of your family members – evolved into Care.Data.
This was a scheme in which the government spent thousands of pounds on setting up departments, doing engagement, a bit of publicity etc. In the end this was all for nothing as the campaign had to be scrapped following complaints from the GMC and GPs.
Unfortunately the fiasco continued – the government then had the bright idea of sharing your tax details with private firms, not even going to the bother of selling the information!
Do you remember all the discussions about home care? The lack of it? The time taken? How many times have government ministers been ‘horrified’ that home care visits have to be completed in 15 minutes, even though these visits include getting particularly vulnerable people up, washed, dressed, toileted and fed? Has this changed? Of course not. Will it change? Very, very unlikely…
Scams, rogue traders, cold callers… It’s a never ending cycle which is somehow getting worse, with over a million older people caught up in either scams or fraud. The main cause of this is the computer, yet in spite of this, we are constantly told we need to live our lives on/through a computer. Meanwhile, cold callers and silent callers are supposed to be illegal now but I have not noticed any decrease in the number of calls – have you?
Attitudes Towards Older People
‘Older people bashing’ seems to have been a constant for the last seven years or so now. We are somehow responsible for the failure of the NHS, the housing crisis, the banking crisis, the recession, the transport crisis, oh and causing unemployment amongst young people whilst simultaneously trapping them in their family homes.
We cause depression and suicide in young people, we contribute nothing to society, yet when we work and pay tax we are seen as greedy! The list goes on and on…
As for the latest thing is that older people are responsible for? Brexit. I don’t think we have yet been blamed for President Trump, but give it time… The government continues to provoke conflict between the generations and this situation has certainly not improved – so another NO!
Over the years we have talked a lot about cancer screening and still the numbers are down. We are still urging everyone to use the bowel screening test when it comes through the door, to check for breast and prostate cancers (amongst others)and not to be afraid to get any symptoms checked out. Understandably this is a subject which will always be part of the agenda of life.
Almost a success story here! Certainly a change for the better at least. So a big “thank-you” to everyone who joined our campaign. We now have Tesco and Sainsburys on board, John Lewis nearly complying as well as support from lots of small pharmacies, dentists, shops. Unfortunately there’s still work to do – Boots flatly refuse to come on board
Over the last few years the issue of ID has raised its head at regular intervals. Apparently banks, financial groups, and now several other services will only allow access if you happen to have a passport. Which, of course, many older people do not have – why should you have one if you don’t go abroad?!
There have been several suggestions recently that to access NHS services you will need to have a passport and other forms of ID – does this mean that you have to carry a passport at all times?! Is it compulsory to have a passport to live in your own country?! We continue to say that this must be knocked on its head as soon as possible.
Of course the digital debate has never gone away and is now becoming even stronger still. People are being bullied, harassed and denied access to services because they either don’t want a computer, or can’t afford a computer and all the associated costs. There is also the real concern of hacking and identity fraud which is often dismissed yet is simultaneously highlighted nearly every week in the national media.
Technology is often presented as a cure-all. It will cure loneliness by having robots who will live with a vulnerable person, provide care, cook, clean, put you on the computer and socialise. Apparently you’ll never be isolated or lonely as long as you have a robot living with you.
If you’re lucky enough to have a robot cat or dog as well as your robot best friend, then of course life cannot get any better. Are you looking forward to this life? Will you really feel less lonely having robots and computers rather than people?
I am finding all this quite depressing! Of course there are lots of other problems to be solved that we haven’t even had chance to mention! In today’s news alone there’s discussion of switching energy supplier, banks, insurance organisations, smart metering, cyclists on pavements, families caring for relatives, lack of NHS and social care funding – the list goes on…
And just going through this – is there a glimmer of light? Anywhere? Yes, I think we can finish on a slightly positive note – we made progress in the campaign for defibrillators, which may in the end save your life or mine.