The Older People’s Commissioner for Wales has warned that progress in tackling key issues that affect older people’s lives is at significant risk due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and that older people’s health, independence and quality of life will suffer without action across society.
The Commissioner’s warning comes as she publishes her latest State of the Nation report, which brings together a wide range of data, evidence and research to provide a detailed overview of people’s experiences of growing older in Wales and assess how things have changed since the publication of her last State of the Nation Report in October 2019.
The report has found there has been a significant deterioration in older people’s physical and mental health due to the pandemic, and that accessing community-based services – particularly health and care services – has been particularly difficult for older people during the past 18 months.
In addition, the report highlights the danger that older people will be excluded as we move forward due to a shift towards digital services, changing working practices and reduced opportunities for engagement and volunteering.
The report also includes a number of concerning statistics which highlight the need for action in a number of key areas:
- Only 59% older people felt like a valued member of society since the start of the pandemic
- 91,000 older people in Wales are consistently lonely, while 75% of older people now report sometimes feeling lonely (up from 49% in 2019)
- Only 23% of older people found it easy to access health services online
- 80% of unpaid carers are now providing more care than before the pandemic began
- Only 35% of employers surveyed would be prepared to hire and offer training to someone over 55 in a new industry
- 64% of older people reported attempts to trick them out of money or personal information
Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, Heléna Herklots CBE, said: “It is clear from the evidence in my report that the last two years have been a difficult and challenging time for many older people.
“The pandemic has impacted on older people’s health and well-being, both directly and indirectly, as well as severely limited people’s ability to access services, spend time with friends and loved ones and do the things that matter to them.
“Whilst my 2019 report found that Wales had some good foundations to build on, the last two years have unfortunately set back some areas of older people’s lives and created new problems and challenges.
“This is not to say that this decline cannot be reversed or that these challenges cannot be overcome, but without action across society older people’s health, wellbeing and quality of life is at significant risk.
Alongside her State of the Nation report, the Commissioner has also published ‘Winter Stories’, which provides a detailed look at the lived experiences of 21 older people from across Wales during Winter 2020.
The report, which includes extensive quotes from the older people who shared their experiences, provides an insight into the range of issues participants faced and highlights the strategies they adopted to help get them through a difficult winter.
The Commissioner added: “What comes through really clearly in my State of the Nation and Winter Stories reports is that despite the significant challenges created by the pandemic, older people have shown great resilience and determination, and are generally optimistic about the future.
“That’s why it’s crucial that the action I am calling for is delivered – to not only ensure that the practical support older people will need as we recover from the pandemic is in place, but also to build a better future where older people are valued, rights are upheld and no-one is left behind.”
Download State of the Nation 2021