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We need to build society around older people

Credit: Unsplash

4 min read

We must place older people at the centre of all we do.

How you manage this pandemic depends on whose shoes you stand in. A child, a business owner, a health worker, a student or an older person; each have a different set of priorities.

Today I invite you to step into the footsteps of the older generation.

The Public Health England Report, ‘Covid-19: review of disparities in risks and outcomes’ highlighted how the virus discriminates against older people, already with a far greater prevalence of comorbidities. It states that from the first wave of Covid-19, 56.3% of deaths fell on those aged 80 years or over.

This is the generation who were disgracefully served advanced decision letters by some authorities, asking them to sacrifice their own future at the start of the pandemic.

This is the generation who have worked hard, served our country, volunteered in our communities and who are our parents and grandparents. They need protecting.

Today they are locked away behind a wall of Covid-fear.

3.8m people over the age of 65 years live alone in the UK, over 1m have no children and even if they did, being able to spend time with them has been denied.

Lockdown has brought home the depth of loneliness that many experience, now chronic and so painful in the knowledge that sustained isolation will continue.

This has been worsened by the Government robbing them of their free TV licenses, shutting places where once they would gather and as the streets have become busier, trapped some people in their homes; trapped between the fear of going out and the fear of staying home reinforcing isolation.

The fast pace of tech has left many digitally excluded, isolated from the systems set up to reach out through the pandemic; making access to shopping, services and those lifelines of zoom calls less accessible.

Having older people integrated into decision making would ensure that their voices were truly heard and their needs met.

Previously part of the army of volunteers, they have had to withdraw from the front line, or have ceased their childcare support as grandchildren returned to school.

For those in care homes, the separation from family, not least when 70% of care home residents have an element of dementia, has been so painful, and for many, their final days have been alone, save for a parting visit as they leave this life.

Even at this point of intense bereavement, it has been a challenge for families to attend the funerals of their loved ones.

See Covid differently?

Not only a lethal health challenge or an economic depressant, it has crushed spirits and stolen the only hope that people have in their latter days.

This is why we have to stand in the shoes of our older people, because the aching pain and abandonment we experience as we do so must ignite our determination to construct a different response.

Now imagine a society, built around older people. A society where every person is connected and supported. Where effective testing and contact tracing means that you can spend quality time with  those you love and be safe, and for those in care, maintain connection with the outside world.

Older people are not just recipients of the state determinations, they should articulate their own needs and the Government should respond.

Having older people integrated into decision making would ensure that their voices were truly heard and their needs met.

When you reach your later years, priorities change. However for most, if not all, it is being able to sustain relationships with others that really matters. It is not a lot to ask.

Don’t take off the shoes you have been trying out, as one day we hope we will be wearing them.

It is incumbent on us all to keep in these footsteps and now tread a different path to place older people at the centre of all we do.

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