Older carers hailed as the solution to age time bomb

Andrew Senew with carer Lucy Smith. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Andrew Senew with carer Lucy Smith. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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One of the leading care providers in Scotland is calling for employers to be more “age positive” towards older workers who could hold the key to solving the recruitment crisis in the sector.

Andrew Senew, owner and director of Home Instead Senior Care in Edinburgh, believes attracting people who have already retired and are financially secure into helping their peers could go a long way towards providing a solution.

At present the country is in the midst of a social care crisis with the Care Inspectorate warning that more than a third of services in the sector had unfilled staff vacancies last year.

Particularly high proportions of care at home and housing support services, and care homes for older people, reported difficulties.

Almost a third – 27 per cent – said there were too few applicants applying for roles, while 20 per cent reported there were too few applicants with the required experience and 18 per cent said there were too few qualified applicants. It is predicted that Scotland will require an extra 90,000 workers over the next two decades to deal with the demands of an ageing population and increases in both dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Senew is one of a growing number of care professionals who see the experience, reliability and empathy shown by older workers as a “fantastic opportunity” to fill the vacancy gap by employing them to work around 10 hours per week.

He said: “Let’s focus on the positive that we are living longer and more people are not in jobs for life – they’re changing careers. There are opportunities for people to do something more vocational and I think as you get older your outlook on life changes, you prioritise different things and you recognise your own mortality.

“In our experience, a lot of people have been carers for a family member and they then start to question the value of what they may have done before like shuffling bits of paper around in an office.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity as there’s so many people out there who have got experience, they’ve got the life skills and they’ve got an empathy for growing older – all these things.”

Senew said we should look to the Japanese model of valuing older people and keeping them active in the workforce, with job centres in Japan catering for older workers. He added: “We’ve got this explosion in older people and we’ve got a crisis in care and the older people have got a skill set. So, I would bite their hand off to come and work for us.”

Brian Sloan, Chief Executive of Age Scotland, said: “Many older people already undertake caring duties on an unpaid basis on behalf of relatives they look after. There is no reason why older people cannot enter the social care workforce on a more formal basis.”