We asked the leading London Mayoral Candidates if they would write a blog post for older Londoners. Here we have the fourth piece from Sian Berry, the Green candidate.
There is a lovely photograph of my Grandma Joyce with my Aunty Mavis which I look at often, and I never fail to find inspiring. It’s a picture of them working the tea urns to raise money for charity.
My gran was active and working in the community right into her 80s, and I know first hand that older people are a huge asset to society. But I also know that older people also face unnecessary barriers to a decent, active life, and I want to bring those barriers down as the first Green Mayor of London.
London’s citizens are getting older. We have 2.5 million people aged over 50 and more than 1 million over 65s, with the proportion of older Londoners growing. Too many of our older Londoners face low incomes and poverty, and too many are shut out of the workplace. Less than a third of those aged 50-64 who are out of work consider themselves retired.
The pandemic has also uniquely affected older people. Nationally, Age UK has found that 1 in 3 older people are more anxious than before the pandemic, over half are less confident taking public transport, and 1 in 7 have had their care reduced.
To fix these problems, older Londoners need a strong voice in City Hall after the election on 6 May and that is what I will make sure of. I have pledged to create a new role dedicated to this work: an Elders Champion to sit alongside me in City Hall, helping to form policy and scrutinising my decisions on behalf of every older Londoner.
They will listen to older Londoners and take action across issues such as emotional wellbeing, physical health and economic security, putting into action the policies in my manifesto that are designed to remove the barriers associated with age.
One example of that would be working to increase the provision of public toilets in London.
A report by the Royal Society of Public Health found that as many of one in five people in the UK go out less often than they would like for fear of not being able to access a toilet, and acknowledged that older people are affected disproportionately by this ‘loo-leash’.
With my Elders Champion I will invest to install 32 new toilet blocks in Transport for London stations, along with six new fully accessible Changing Places facilities.
This Green proposal was originally put forward in 2020 in the amendment to the Mayor’s budget I wrote with my Assembly colleague Caroline Russell last year, but has not been adopted by the current Mayor despite widespread cross-party support for this good Green idea.
In City Hall we have campaigned for free toilet provision in London throughout the pandemic, calling for park toilets to be reopened when closed, and successfully pushing the Mayor to commit to making all station toilets run by Transport for London free of cost.
Of course, the lack of free, accessible toilets across our city is just one way in which London is currently letting down older and disabled people. From poverty, to lack of appropriate care, to inaccessible transport, to loneliness, I want to remove every single barrier to older people leading fulfilling lives in London, while celebrating the amazing contributions older people make to our communities and our city.
Age should be no barrier to playing your part in the life of London, and that’s what me and my Elders Champion will make our mission from day one.