I often find it hard to believe that I took up post as Older People’s Commissioner for Wales six years ago, in June 2012. The years have simply flown by and I have been proud to stand up and speak out on behalf of older people across Wales as their independent voice and champion.
During the past six years, I have met and spoken with thousands of older people across Wales, who have generously shared so much with me about their lives, their experiences, and their hopes and wishes for the future.
The voices of older people in all of their diversity have guided and shaped the wide range of work I have undertaken as Commissioner during the past six years, which is set out in this Legacy Report, which is being published alongside my annual Impact and Reach Report.
When I took up post as Commissioner, I was clear that the debate around the issues that affect older people was too often being framed incorrectly. There was little focus on quality of life, wellbeing and outcomes, older people’s rights were not being fully considered by policy and decision makers, and issues that affect older people that fall outside of health and social care were often not seen as a priority, despite their vital importance.
Furthermore, older people were too often seen as a homogenous group, a group apart who were excluded from society, with negative imagery and language commonly being used that reinforced stereotypes and assumptions, particularly those around frailty, decline and dependence.
As a result of my work over the past six years, and the tireless work of many others across Wales to improve the lives of older people, there has been a significant shift in policy, legislation, regulations and practice based on providing a more person-centred, outcomes-focused and preventative approach.
This is to be welcomed, of course, but there is no room for complacency and still much more to be done. Many of the issues faced by older people that I have highlighted and reported on during my time as Commissioner have developed over considerable periods of time and require significant and ongoing work to resolve.
That is why follow-up work and continuous monitoring and scrutiny of policy and practice is essential and has been a key part of my work. In a landscape of competing priorities and challenges, it is vital that the promises and commitments made by public bodies to take action and deliver change are made real for older people.
It has been a real privilege to have been the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales over the past six years, a time in which there has been much positive change for older people. I would like to thank my team, the stakeholders I have worked with and, most importantly, older people across Wales who have supported me and my work to make Wales a good place to grow older, not just for some but for everyone.
Click here to download Driving Change for Older People: Impact and Reach 2012-2018