It might sound slightly ominous but the local elections are on the way – have you noticed? What with Westminster and Scottish parliament elections, and two referendums, choosing your local councillors sometimes doesn’t get the attention it deserves from a vote-weary electorate.
Yet, your local authority has huge responsibility to deliver education and social care to cover both ends of the age spectrum, along with the usual bugbears of potholes, planning and bins among a myriad of other important issues.
At Age Scotland, we have a vision of a Scotland where everyone can love later life and local authorities have a role to play in making it a reality. So we want all candidates to commit to Age Scotland’s plan for how to provide a secure later life for all, and not for the few who can afford it.
We urge councils to commit to making the integration of health and social care work – and help ensure authorities adequately study and plan for age-related need, such as dementia and social isolation.
Delayed discharges from hospital cause not only unnecessary distress, they cost us an enormous amount of money. It is vital that local authorities ensure their area has the residential and home care their communities need.
It is also crucial that when people need care assessments these happen quickly and that care arrangement and free personal payments are put in place rapidly. Councils should cap social care charges for non-residential services such as adult day care or meals at home. It is also vital that greater progress is made with Self Directed Support, both to benefit people receiving care and make better use of funds.
We believe that services such as day centres and libraries which tackle loneliness and bring people together should be protected from cuts and that every council should commit to supporting the development of existing and new Men’s Sheds.
Councils should ensure that communities are age-friendly, allowing people to stay active. This includes the availability of public toilets, seats and benches, handrails on sloping paths, bus shelters, proper street lighting, public signage which suits people with cognitive and visual impairments, and properly maintained and even paths.
The fact that 70 per cent of older people in remote rural areas either don’t have a concessionary travel pass or don’t use it, shows that public transport provision as it stands is failing to meet the needs of many older people.
In many urban areas, vital bus services are also being cut. Accessible and affordable transport allows older people to stay active in their communities which improves wellbeing. That’s why councils should increase community transport provision, allowing older people to access local services like day centres. Bus routes to hospitals should also be prioritised and protected from cuts.
The needs of older people should also be properly considered when councils draw up local housing strategies. Older people should not have to move out of the area they have lived in, and lose contact with friends and family, due to a lack of suitable housing when downsizing.
We believe that new and existing homes must be energy efficient and accessible for older people, especially those living with dementia or who have disabilities, sensory impairment or mobility issues. Funding to support older people with home adaptations is crucial as it enables older people to live independently in their own home.
A strategy on accessible information should also be implemented across Scotland.
Many older people are digitally excluded and simply cannot access information online. For others, the information they need has to come to them – either through leaflets supplied by health or care workers or home visits.
Around a third of people entitled to Pension Credit do not claim it. Councils need to increase awareness of the benefits they administer, including Council Tax Reduction and the Scottish Welfare Fund. We believe that more needs to be done by local authorities to prevent scams, as often it is vulnerable older people who are the victims. We know that age-proofing our services won’t be easy but it can be done, and must be done, to ensure that we can all love later life. So on 4 May, get out and vote, because it’s the first step you can take to making Scotland a better place for us all.
Keith Robson is chief executive of Age Scotland