Bristol took centre stage yesterday as experts from around the country as well as regional seniors representatives met to discuss innovative ways being developed in the West to tackle the challenges of our ageing population.
Lord Geoffrey Filkin, Chair of the Big Lottery Fund's Centre for Ageing Better and author of the 2013 “Ready for Ageing” report, led a discussion in the city that looked at the emerging priorities of the new Government funded £50m initiative and the growing challenges to the health, care and social services looking after those in later life.
The Centre is currently looking at the sort of projects it will be supporting in the future, and the West showed what it has to offer in a series of presentations on emerging technologies to keep older people living independently in their homes, building new sustainable “smart hamlet” communities and enabling older people to design their own home care packages.
New ways to enable people to afford adapting their homes were also covered, as well as the pioneering intergenerational work of LinkAge Bristol, together with the legal support available for vulnerable older people and those facing the rising cost of care.
“The West is well ahead of the rest of the country in its ageing demographic, driving innovative thinking,” said Tony Watts OBE, Chair of the South West Forum on Ageing – one of the co-hosts of the event. “Minds have been focused on meeting the challenges for some time now: we recognize that the old ways of providing health and social care, as well as suitable housing for an ageing population are not fit for the future.
“We have a health service that treats illness rather than enabling wellness, and a social care system that provides the bare minimum people need to stay alive rather than enabling them to be an active, contributing part of the rest of society.
“We have to adapt and innovate – and if the West can drive those changes we will have a better connected and healthier society… which other parts of the country and the world can follow.”
Lord Filkin said: “Yesterday’s meeting was excellent and I look forward to further discussions in the South West about ageing and how the Centre for Ageing Better can best listen to the views and voices of older people to focus its work where it matters most for better later lives.”
Brian Warwick, Chairman of the South West Network of Seniors Forums, said: “The South West has the UKs best developed community of older people’s groups and networks – some 60,000 people in total – and we know that when we are invited to shape and influence public services those services are more effective… and cost less. Meeting Lord Filkin today has opened the door to us having an even bigger say, regionally and nationally.”
Heledd Wyn, specialist in elderly care issues at Bristol law firm Clarke Willmott LLP, who hosted the event said: “With an increasingly elderly population, issues around health, social care, housing and transport are becoming more critical if we are to look after and support this demographic.
“Protecting the most vulnerable older people is also a huge issue. When we lose capacity, through physical or mental deterioration, there is a tendency to lose identity, which can lead to vulnerability and isolation.”
The event was organised by the South West Forum on Ageing, the South West Network of Seniors Forums, LinkAge Bristol and the South West Age Action Alliance and it opened with a performance by the LinkAge Happy Notes Choir from South Bristol.