Remember 2010? David Cameron became PM, the Chilean miners were rescued and the world’s aircraft came to a halt thanks to an Icelandic volcano – all landmark events. 2010 was also the year that, for the first time ever, there were more people over the age of 65 than under 16. And this trend is going to continue – by 2035 a quarter of the Welsh population will be 65 plus.
This shift in demographics brings enormous challenges. Already too many older people live in poverty and isolation, fobbed off with uncaring services. This is not, of course, news – study after study has demonstrated the shocking way our society treats its elders.
The report we prepared for Age Alliance Wales, launched yesterday, does much more than that, however. Of course it highlights the current plight of many older people, but it does so as a baseline for monitoring action rather than for its own sake. It doesn’t paint a positive picture, without doubt.
But much more important is the action demanded by Age Alliance Wales, especially for prevention and early intervention. There’s a mountain of evidence that acting early and quickly delays or reduces the need for higher-intensity care, reduces the likelihood of illness and maintains people’s independence. And it saves money too – the rate of return is fantastic!
So why aren’t Wales’s public bodies doing this?
At the conference, the Stroke Association pointed out the devastating impact of stroke, as well as the cost to the NHS and local authorities. Regular monitoring of blood pressure to detect hypertension (a major cause) or action in the event of a TIA (an indicator of increased risk of stroke) could cut the number of strokes dramatically. Neither of these is difficult or costly – no high tech drugs, no fancy equipment. Yet neither are common practice in Wales.
There are many more examples, from social care to adult learning all with the same message – that little bit of help, early, makes a difference.
Anyone reading this who is over 32 years of age will be in that older age group by 2035. It’s in everyone’s interest that we get services right for over 65s, now and in the future.
Victoria Winckler is Director of the Bevan Foundation
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