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Elderly feel ignored, finds DMU research


SUPPORT: Older people felt written off

Older people feel society sees them as a burden and many are never consulted on services which affect their lives, a new survey has found.

The poll of 700 over-65s across Britain was carried out to coincide with a new report, Shaping Our Age, which was published today (26 June) following three years of research jointly carried out by De Montfort University (DMU).

The report, supported by the Big Lottery Fund, was a joint project between the Centre for Citizen Participation at Brunel University, the Centre for Social Action at DMU and older people’s charity the Royal Voluntary Service (formerly WRVS).

It found that traditional services for the elderly encouraged dependence and passivity. Many services, it found, do things “for” older people rather than working alongside them and asking them what they would like.

Many older people reported being patronised or not sufficiently involved or valued.

The Shaping our Age report, due to be launched at the House of Commons today, illustrates the huge contribution that older people have to make to the debate around their own well-being and how best to provide services and support for older people.

Through a national consultation with older people, as well as five local projects carried out as part of Shaping our Age, the report suggests a future model for services for older people which would involve older people themselves in helping develop the kind of services and activities that will contribute most to their well-being. Key factors include starting with the older people and using their expertise and knowledge, having small groups for activities and actually doing what older people want to do rather than dictating what they should do.

Its findings are echoed by the survey results of the survey, which was commissioned to go with the research.

This highlights older people's own concerns about their position in society; 61 per cent of over 65s think that society sees them as a burden and the majority (57 per cent) think that the media encourages the idea that older people are a problem for society. Two-thirds of older people (66 per cent) feel that they are stereotyped and well over half (56 per cent) think that older people are ignored.

It found that although a majority of over 65s (57 per cent) do not use services specifically for older people; for those that do, one in ten feel that the services provided are not really what they want nor are they interesting or stimulating enough. Sixteen per cent say that the services are the stereotypical ones that people think older people would like.

Despite the views of others, the vast majority (62 per cent) of over 65s do not feel as old as they are and two-thirds (61 per cent) don't see age as important.

Jennie Fleming, Reader in Participatory Research and Social Action, Centre for Social Action, De Montfort University, said: “Shaping our Age clearly demonstrates the need to involve older people more in both the debate around their own well-being, but also the actual services that they use. Participation in activities makes a massive difference to an older person’s sense of well-being and that in turn can have a positive effect on loneliness, which we know has a knock on impact on mental and physical health.”

David McCullough, Royal Voluntary Service Chief Executive, said: "The fact that, as a society, we are living longer is a wonderful thing but the challenges that this brings with it has led to older people being seen as a burden. This report lays out what many of us already know: that older people have a huge amount to give back to society and we should harness that expertise and enthusiasm to make services better for older people by involving them more in decision making. Shaping our Age is an exciting and innovative research project which should act as a wake-up call for those of us providing services for older people.”

Care and Support Minister, Norman Lamb said: “Our whole approach to health and care should be based on trying to help people have a good life. It’s self-evident that this has to be based on ensuring that older people have a voice.

 “We must challenge negative language about ‘burdens’. We know older people have a great deal of experience and knowledge and make an extraordinary contribution to our health and care system. I welcome the ‘Shaping Our Age’ report as an important step towards a positive later life for older people in England.”

 Professor Peter Beresford OBE, Director, Centre for Citizen Participation, Brunel University, said: "The biggest issue older people see as needed for improving their well-being is more social contact and they want to play a bigger part in changing things for the better. Services for older people have to shift from a paternalistic ‘doing-to’ model to the ‘involvement-led’ approach older people value. What’s needed now are the twenty-first century equivalent of the old ‘Darby and Joan’ clubs, not just more of the same”.

Shaping our Age defines what constitutes well-being for older people by consulting with the project's participants. Key factors which determine well-being were found to be good mental and physical health; achieving and accomplishing in life; and leading an independent life. Keeping fit and active and being involved with other people were also seen as important. Relationships and social contacts with friends and family are essential and participating in groups and clubs, as well as volunteering, were cited as important.

Royal Voluntary Service supports over 100,000 older people each month to stay independent in their own homes for longer with tailor made solutions.



Posted on Wednesday 26th June 2013

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