Older people in Wales are in danger of being rendered invisible to policy- and decision-makers due to a lack of meaningful information and data in crucial areas about their experiences of growing older.
That’s the warning from the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales as she publishes her first State of the Nation report, which has been published today (1 October), the international day of older persons.
The report brings together, for the first time, a wide range of evidence and research, as well as the often limited data that is currently available, to provide an overview of people’s experiences of growing older in Wales.
In addition to highlighting serious gaps in the data collected about older people, the report sets out where change is required and the action that is needed to improve older people’s lives and make Wales the best place in the world to grow older.
Discussing the report, Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, Heléna Herklots CBE, said:
“My State of the Nation report brings together a wide range of evidence about older people’s lives and experiences, setting out the changes that are needed and the actions that can be taken now to make a positive difference.
“Whilst the report shows that we have some strong foundations on which to build – with many older people feeling in control of their lives and able to do the things that matter to them – its findings also demonstrate the stark inequalities that exist within the older population in Wales.
“We are seeing growing poverty amongst older people, for example, alongside significant differences in people’s health and life expectancy between the least and most deprived areas of Wales. We also know that significant numbers of older people do not know about the rights they have and are unable to access the services they need to help them to age well.
“In addition to this, the report has also revealed serious and concerning gaps in the data collected relating to older people, particularly in relation to abuse. This can lead to assumptions being made that older people are unaffected by an issue, despite the opposite being the case.
“Older people in Wales are therefore in danger of being rendered invisible to policy- and decision-makers as they are not able to fully understand older people’s needs and determine where resources and services need to be targeted.
“This means it is likely that there will be insufficient progress against a number of priority areas that I have identified as being vital to transform the experience of growing older in Wales – ending ageism and age discrimination, stopping the abuse of older people, and enabling everyone to age well.”
The Commissioner is calling upon public bodies, public services and organisations working with and for older people to work together and ensure that Wales leads the way in tackling the issues identified within the report and delivering change with older people.
To support this, the Commissioner is bringing together older people, a cross-party panel of politicians, including the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, Julie Morgan AM, and stakeholders working across the public sector at an event in the Senedd, which will explore the most effective ways to take forward the Commissioner’s calls for action and deliver the required changes to policy and practice.
The Commissioner added:
“Tackling many of the issues identified within my State of the Nation report is within our collective power and Wales has the opportunity to lead the way. We all have a role to play in making change happen and I am committed to working with others to ensure that action is taken to deliver the change required.
“We are at a critical juncture – if we don’t act now there is a risk that many older people, today and in the future, will face a deteriorating quality of life.
“But with the right action, we can continue to make progress and improve older people’s lives across the country, with the aim of making Wales the best place in the world to grow older.”
Click here to read the Commissioner’s State of the Nation Report