We asked the four candidates who attended our Hustings if they would write a blog post for older Londoners. Here, we have the third of these pieces, from Sadiq Khan, Labour MP for Tooting.
Sadiq Khan: Listening to older people and making London a great place to grow older
It was great to take part in the Age UK London Mayoral hustings recently. It was a really lively discussion, and one I thoroughly enjoyed. I’d like to thank Age UK London for organising it.
While I have been out and about campaigning and listening to thousands of older Londoners I have seen the experiences, knowledge, dynamism and, energy that London’s older population brings – all of which are an invaluable contribution to our city.
There are currently 2.2 million older people in London and they deserve to have their voice heard and feel like they live in a city that is a great place to grow old. Sadly, this is too often not the case. Some positive policy changes have been implemented in recent years, but there is still a great deal that needs to be done.
If I’m elected in May, I will be a Mayor for all Londoners and will focus on four key issues to support older people.
Firstly, a key priority will be to fix London’s housing crisis, which is affecting people of all ages. It is not just young families struggling to get on the housing ladder and key workers not able to live close to where they work – many older people are facing serious problems too. For example, over 30 per cent of older people would like to downsize, but can’t find affordable, age friendly options in their area. Also too many older people in London are living in homes that are of poor quality, physically inaccessible and difficult to heat.
As Mayor, I will ensure that a range of accessible, energy efficient and genuinely affordable homes to buy and, rent are available across all London boroughs. Making London’s housing age-friendly will ultimately play a crucial part in solving London’s housing crisis and I will work with Age UK London and other organisations to take this forward as quickly as possible.
It is also the case that addressing the housing crisis will help with the concerns many older Londoners have that their children and grandchildren won’t be able to afford to live nearby.
Secondly, we need to do more to support older people getting online. This will not only help many older people stay in touch with family and make new social connections, but also engage with public services online. As Mayor, I will appoint the first ever Chief Digital Officer to promote digital inclusion across London and work with the Government, local councils, the voluntary sector and, businesses to get more people online.
Thirdly, I will work with Transport for London to deliver both an affordable and an accessible transport network for everyone.
I know how being able to travel is a key factor in helping people stay socially included and connected. When I was growing up we took the bus all the time – whether to go shopping with my mum, explore London or drive around with my dad, who was a bus driver for many years.
I have also seen how the Freedom Pass in particular is a lifeline to London’s older population, ensuring people can always get around our city. That’s why if I’m Mayor, I’ll guarantee that the Freedom Pass and the Tfl 60+ Oyster card are here to stay. I will also work to increase the number of step-free tube stations, ensure new projects don’t disadvantage older people, make sure bus drivers get the training they need to deal with disabled and older passengers and, work with councils to improve door to door transport services for older people.
Fourthly, I will support work to tackle loneliness in London. Over half of over 75s in Britain live alone and more than a million older people say they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member. The problem is even worse in the capital, where one in four Londoners are lonely often or all of the time.
I was lucky enough to grow up on a council estate that was a real community, where everyone would help each other and come together for celebrations like the Queen’s Jubilee. Communities like this are becoming rarer, making the problem of loneliness worse. There is so much more that we can and must do. As Mayor I’ll ensure tackling loneliness is a key part of a wider push to tackle social segregation and promote integration over the decades ahead.
I will focus on these four key issues, but of course there are many other areas that I will work on as Mayor that will benefit older people. Whether it’s increasing neighbourhood policing to make older people feel safer in their own communities, making vital public service information accessible to all older Londoners or ensuring all Londoners have access to the health and social care that works for them.
With all these issues my guiding principle will be to listen to concerns and ensure that all the policies we adopt in City Hall will take into account that London, as a city, is getting older.
London is the greatest city in the world and if I am elected in May, I promise to be a Mayor for all Londoners – of all ages. There will be a lot of work to do, but I know I’ve got the experience, values and vision to ensure that we make our city a great place for all Londoners to grow older.