This was the appalling incident where Gloria Foster of Banstead in Surrey starved to death after being left without medication, food or water for 9 days after the UK border agency raided the care agency employed to provide home care and shut it down. Maybe if you work like I do in health and social care you do. If you’re a member of the general public I’d be amazed if you did. It was covered by The Guardian, a bit in the Daily Mail and Telegraph and a small story on the BBC. Certainly not the front page tabloid headlines that would have occurred had a child been left to starve to death in similar circumstances.
Today yet another in a very long line of reports has been published pointing out that the Government has no idea of the true impact that social care cuts are having on vulnerable older people. The warning about cuts to social care and the subsequent impact on the lives of older people, their carers, families and other services have become like a broken record of late. It has been said over and over and over again and yet absolutely nothing changes.
On Monday I was at the Redefining Ageing conference put on by Age UK London. There was a real sense of anger and frustration at the lack of action about the problems facing older people. Mary Sinfield chair of the Older Peoples References Group for the New Dynamics of Ageing said she had counted over 50 reports highlighting again and again the inadequacy of care and services, each with long lists of recommendations, most of which had never been implemented. She also made the following stark point to the people in the room “no one is going to fight your battles for you. You have to get out there yourself and do it”
There is a lot of rhetoric in the media about how older people (by which they really mean the so called baby boomer generation) have stolen the country’s wealth, pulled up the ladder behind them and given a few years, will be costing the NHS and social care a fortune. An ageing population is constantly described as a negative thing; a burden, a challenge, a problem.
My personal view is that it is very hard to find issues around which older people coalesce particularly while the powers that be use 50 as the benchmark for when “later life” begins. The idea that you can take people of 50, of 70 and of 90 and expect them all to have the same views, issues and aspirations about services because they’ve been plonked in a box marked “later life” to me is laughable. However, I do believe ageism is the one issue older people can come together around because its ageism that underpins a lot of attitudes, policy and practice in this country. To be old generally is to be invisible; to not matter; to be seen as unimportant and past it.
So long as older people are still seen, if they are seen at all, as a burden or a problem to society rather than just individual people then they will remain without power. There will be more reports, more deaths and nothing will change.