Age UKs across London are proud to present “Make London’s Boroughs Age Friendly!” a manifesto for the upcoming London borough Council elections, to ensure that candidates do all they can to make London a great place to grow older. We’ve identified five key areas for change, which are summarised below.
The London local elections are rapidly approaching, with polling day set for Thursday May 3rd. Four years on from the last London borough elections, all London borough councillor seats are set to be decided, alongside Mayoral contests in Hackney, Lewisham, Newham, and Tower Hamlets.
As London continues to grow in size, the number of older Londoners is increasing too – a 2016 estimate revealed that over a million Londoners were aged 65+ and 140,000 of that total were over the age of 85. A socially and economically diverse demographic, older Londoners contribute massively to every borough of the capital, as paid workers, volunteers, carers, family members, community activists, and in a whole host of other ways. As the number of older Londoners continues to increase, so too will these vital contributions to city life.
However, there are also a large number of older Londoners who are experiencing poverty and inequality, just like London’s other demographics. Whilst poverty amongst older people had been falling, there has sadly been a recent increase in the number of people who have dipped below the poverty line in later life. London’s housing crisis continues to affect people of all ages, with a serious lack of affordable housing in many areas. Loneliness too is an intergenerational concern, yet isolation is a particular concern for the older generation. The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness has discovered that “more than 1 in 3 people aged 75 and over say that feelings of loneliness are out of their control.”
Meanwhile, the pressure on local government finances has driven adult social care services to breaking point. The broken care system stems from central funding cuts, yet it is those within local government who hold the statutory responsibility to support those in need. Across the UK, some 1.2 million older people with care needs receive no help, which has very serious and harmful results for those who require support and the family members who care for them. Over half of Londoners aged over 65 have a long-term health condition or are disabled, and in 2017 almost 67,000 older Londoners were estimated to have dementia.
Older Londoners are an extremely diverse group in terms of their ethnic and cultural background, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation and a whole host of other senses. Some 22% of Londoners aged 65+ are from “non-white ethnic groups” and 36.7% of over 65s in London were born outside of the UK. 14% do not have English as their first language.
Taking all of this into account, it is clear that whilst older Londoners face a number of similar concerns to their younger counterparts, there are a number of issues that are unique to the older generation. With this in mind, Age UKs across London have produced a manifesto for the London borough Council elections, to ensure London does all it can to be a great place to grow older.
Our manifesto identifies five key areas for the election candidates to focus on: Care services; age friendly boroughs and neighbourhoods; communicating with older residents; age friendly housing; and accessible transport.
Age UKs in London call on candidates in the May 2018 London borough Council elections to commit themselves to make the changes outlined below:
1. Quality, responsive local care services
- Give top political priority to ensuring that older people with identified care needs are not left without support.
- Meet the 2014 Care Act duty that the local authority ensure that information about support for older people and their families or carers is available and that this sets out details of what services are available, connections between different services, and how accessibility requirements will be met.
- Ensure that commissioners and providers meaningfully involve older people in making informed decisions about their care needs and care planning – co-producing local services.
- Make sure that the borough and the local NHS develop a shared understanding and definition of what integrated care means for their population in their local area, and then work towards delivering this shared aim.
- Keep on the agenda the importance of a preventive approach to reduce the future need for long term care
- Make services responsive to the needs of older people living with dementia and mental health issues
2. Age Friendly Boroughs and Neighbourhoods
An Age Friendly Borough
- Bring the borough into line with the Age Friendly Cities approach and cooperate with other local authorities and the Mayor of London to develop this concept. In particular, work to make the borough dementia friendly if this is not already in progress.
- Incorporate ageing and older people positively in all work areas including business, the economy and regeneration; develop positive and non-ageist messages about older people including their contribution.
- Ensure inclusive and effective consultation of older people in developing key policies
- Encourage provision of accessible community meeting places, residents’ lounges etc.: these are valuable to community groups and people of all ages.
Age Friendly Neighbourhoods
- Develop Lifetime Neighbourhoods which are walkable with sufficient shops and facilities, public transport links and green spaces
- Prioritise tackling litter and fly tipping: older people have told us this is a key concern about local neighbourhoods
- Encourage the provision of clean, well-maintained, free public toilets.
- Encourage the maintenance of pavements, without obstructive street furniture or tripping hazards and ensure that adequate lighting is provided for pedestrians
- Do everything possible to ensure local communities keep vital services like libraries and post offices
Our manifesto supports the recommendation of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness that:
“Metro mayors and council leaders need to understand how their communities are affected by loneliness; to identify people who may be particularly at risk in their areas; and to set out plans for local action to address these challenges. Ensuring communities have spaces in which they can come together will be vital.”
We call on candidates to support this recommendation.
3. Better Communication with Older People
- Make particular efforts to engage with isolated older people
- Make information and advice accessible to all older Londoners, including disabled people with physical and sensory impairments and those who are not online
- Provide resources to tackle digital exclusion and get more older Londoners online
- Encourage information and support to be provided for older people in relation to a wide variety of topics, including energy-saving guidance, benefits and services
- Improve phone-based information provision using automated systems, which many older people find difficult to use.
- Work with and support voluntary and community sector networks which can be effective in providing advice and getting key information to older people and others.
- Develop information-provision within the community. For example, leaflets in libraries or doctor’s surgeries can reach many people who are not online.
4. Make London’s Housing Age Friendly
- Ensure provision of more genuinely affordable, accessible housing to rent (long term) and buy for people of all ages.
- Meet at least the London Plan targets for provision of good quality, affordable specialist housing for older people across all tenures.
- Act to ensure acceptable standards for private sector tenants, including through landlord licensing and improved housing enforcement, and respond to the needs of older private sector tenants.
- Ensure social housing is both adequate and safe; ensure there are adequate emergency plans safeguarding vulnerable people.
- Ensure information and advice on housing choices (like mobility schemes for social housing tenants) and on housing support and adaptations is accessible to older people. Many older people in social housing currently struggle to use online mobility schemes.
- Strengthen the connection between housing, health and social care, particularly the addition of housing policies and actions to improve health and reduce NHS and social care costs.
- Prioritise the best possible support to repairs, aids and adaptations to enable older people in all housing tenures to remain independent at home.
- Support practical housing solutions to improve housing conditions for lower and middle income older homeowners living in older housing stock.
- Support proposals for innovative housing solutions such as co-operatives and co-housing which can benefit older people.
5. Accessible Transport for Older Londoners
- Ensure that the borough supports retention of the Freedom Pass and TfL 60+ Oyster Photocard and that they are not means tested.
- Improve the street environment for pedestrians, for example limiting street furniture and ensuring older and disabled pedestrians and public transport users are not disadvantaged by the design of new facilities like Cycle Superhighways
- Improve bus connections to London hospitals, which are insufficient in some cases.
- Ensure that pedestrian crossings always allow sufficient time for older people to cross the road
- Work to improve Door to Door transport services for older and disabled people, building on the positive features of Dial-a-Ride, TaxiCard and other services and encouraging support to community transport providers.
By calling on candidates to commit to making changes in these five areas in our manifesto, Age UKs in London hope to see positive steps made towards making the capital as age-friendly as possible. To read the manifesto in full, please visit the Age UK London website.