A Minister for Older People and a raft of changes to change perceptions of getting older are needed now, a leading retirement homes’ developer has told the Government.
More than half of over 65s are more confident and resilient in later life and fiercely object to terms like “pensioner” , “old fogey”, and “codger”, say McCarthy Stone in a new report that highlights ageism as a big problem in the UK – and needs fixing.
John Tonkiss, the company’s chief executive, said: “Our report shows the UK is blighted by ageist attitudes that prevent society from providing the support and opportunities older people need.
“Ageism dehumanizes our most vulnerable and perpetuates misrepresentation. The post-pandemic era presents the opportunity for us all to re-set and champion the needs and wellbeing of older people in society.
“We must collectively tackle the root causes and impact of ageism and create a society in which later life is filled with joy, happiness and purpose.
“We are calling on Government and society to make positive changes to establish Britain as the best place in which to live and grow old.”
The UK currently languishes in 17th place in the list of best countries in which to grow old.
Anna Dixon, CEO of the Centre for Ageing Better, who was one of those interviewed, commented: “The current portrayal of older people in the UK is so negative, with disability and decline unfairly presented as inevitable consequences of ageing. These stereotypes have a hugely detrimental impact, both on individuals and society more broadly.
“But we know that these assumptions don’t reflect the reality and diversity of how people experience later life. We need to see action across society to tackle ageism and create a more age-inclusive culture.”
McCarthy Stone is also calling for mandatory Age Gap reporting for businesses, a ‘Kickstart’ scheme to incentivise hiring an older workforce, and a technology fund to boost connection between generations.
The research underpins McCarthy Stone’s new Vision for Later Life in Britain report – an extensive analysis of the UK’s attitudes to, and experience of, ageing, based on a poll of 5,000 adults and in-depth interviews with later life experts and elderly citizens.
The report found that ageism – which most commonly manifests itself in negative stereotypes and derogatory terminology such as “pensioners”, “old fogey” and “codger” – is fuelling continued misrepresentation of older people within society and a lack of understanding about later life.
Almost half of people under 65 fear they’ll be regarded as frail and somehow less important in older age, yet more than half of over 65s say they actually feel more confident and resilient in later life.
This misrepresentation is having a negative impact on the lifestyles of the over 65s.
41% say ageism results in dehumanisation of older people and a third (31%) believe it has a detrimental impact on mental health.
More than half (52%) believe ageism creates a lack of awareness of older age groups’ wants and needs.
Only 17% of respondents believe that older communities are given sufficient social care support.
The advertising, media and entertainment industries are also deemed guilty of pushing negative perceptions of ageing.
More than two-fifths (42%) wanted to see additional funding for support programmes to help older people, with 36% of younger generations happy for this to be accommodated through extra taxation.
Three-quarters (74%) – including more than two-thirds of younger generations – believe that older people deserve additional government benefits, such as TV and fuel allowances.
Through its report, McCarthy Stone is calling on the Government to action ten key policy changes to help tackle the country’s ageist culture, including:
- Increasing workplace opportunities, through the introduction of mandatory Age Gap reporting across all UK businesses and a ‘Kickstart’ scheme to incentivise hiring older generations into the workforce.
- Increasing representation of older communities in Westminster, with a dedicated Minister for Older People.
- Dedicated commitment to preventative health and social care for older people, including having the Government publish its long-awaited Social Care White Paper and getting the NHS to deliver a ‘Now, Not Later’ strategy of preventative healthcare.
- Using technology to foster inter-generational connectivity and understanding, with a technology and AI fund to develop innovations that bring multiple generations together, and digital education programmes and training to increase access to technology in later life.
- Unlocking purpose and value from later life, with local authorities and community volunteering groups creating a volunteer army of 1 million more older people to support society, building on the 3 million older people who already regularly volunteer.
- Driving fairer representation of older people in the media, with a media manifesto for the press to commit to promote more balanced coverage.
- Improving accessibility standards of new homes specifically for the ageing population.