Friday, 23 September 2011

Good week/bad week

By Rebecca Law, Media and PR officer

This was a bad week for older people’s bank balances as insurance giant, Aviva, reported that a quarter of those over 55 have to survive on £24 a day or less. The Real Retirement Report showed that older people are facing an increasing struggle to balance the rising cost of living with a small, and often fixed, income, little or no savings, low interest rates and large debts. Many older people consequently have been forced to cut back on basics such as food, as well as using their car less, buying fewer clothes and cancelling holidays.

Worryingly, 25% of the 10,000 people surveyed have just £500 or less saved in the bank, 40% save nothing each month, and 80% claimed to be “worried, concerned or terrified” about meeting potential future care costs.

The report highlights the importance of keeping up pressure on the government to act on the recent recommendations laid out by economist, Andrew Dilnot, in his Fairer Care Funding report. Millions of pensioners currently live in fear of incurring unlimited bills for care in later life. Dilnot’s suggestions will see a fairer split between the individual and the state to meet care costs, with a suggested cap on individual contribution of £35,000. Ministers are due to publish a white paper on their recommendations for care reform next April.

Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom out there. This was a good week for 81-year-olds Mary Lyness and John Akings. The pair, who were childhood sweethearts, lost touch when John joined the RAF at the age of 15. But, after 65 years apart, the couple reunited, and rekindled their relationship, through the internet.

Mary received an email from John after she was given a laptop for her birthday – their first contact for 65 years - and this week, tied the knot in West Yorkshire. Thrilled, Mary told the Daily Mail: “It makes us feel 21 again. It’s great that we found each other. I was so scared to meet him at first because I now have so many wrinkles, but my daughter said “he will have wrinkles too”. I’m so glad I met him because he’s still good looking, he always was.” Click here to read the full happy story.

This story comes in the wake of new research released this week by Age UK and the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which shows that even though older people have come to the web more recently than younger people, they are using it to greater effect. That’s really positive news but the report does also highlight that despite this, there are still 5.7million older people who are not online.

It’s older people who have the most to gain by being online. Those who are not part of the e-world lose out on a great number of benefits, from keeping in touch with family and friends, saving money on goods, pursuing their own passions and hobbies and getting access to better services. Clearly we need to take steps to enable more older people technologically, by helping them to appreciate what technology can do for them. Whether they want to see pictures of their grandchildren, keep in touch with their family, download knitting patterns or identify wild birds, we need to tune into their interests, and help them see the benefits for themselves.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Good week/bad week

By Rebecca Law, Media and PR officer

This was a good week for the millions of tons of food that are unnecessarily binned each year. Now, instead, it’s the sell-by dates that are hitting the scrap heap.

Just as producers will no longer be able to mislead customers into thinking their food is off, we got to thinking, isn’t it time we applied the same principle to older people too, who often, are considered to have a sell-by date of their own?

Time and again, we see evidence of ageism and discrimination across society. From the health service to the workplace, older people are treated as though they have a shelf life. In fact, far from being second-rate citizens, older people make a disproportionately large contribution to society – their volunteering alone was recently valued at £10billion a year and the free care they provided to their grandchildren helps contribute £4billion a year to the economy. They are a wealth of knowledge and experience and they can, do, and want to continue making a valuable contribution to society. So shouldn’t we include a shift in the way we label older people too?

This was a bad week for the Care Quality Commission (CQC) after a Select Committee report claimed the regulator in charge of inspecting hospitals and care homes had “distorted” its priorities. The CQC has been focussing on registering providers, which in turn, has led to a 70% drop in the number of inspections it conducts to check care standards and safety. The report states that some hospitals are not even visited every two years if they are deemed to be low risk.

Perhaps then, we might be unsurprised by this morning’s news, that half our hospitals and care homes are failing to look after patients. This is even further evidence of neglect of older people in hospital wards and care homes and comes just months after another CQC report, which found evidence of older people being overlooked, left thirsty, or not given the assistance they need to eat while in hospital. We have to ask ourselves whether children or younger adults would ever be treated in this way. Ultimately, though, this neglect damages not just the patients but the healthcare system itself: poorer care means older people take longer to recover and are more likely to be readmitted. And that, in the end, will cost us all.

Monday, 12 September 2011

How to find your perfect cup of tea...

By Harriet Steele, Community Fundraising Officer

Working on the Big Tea has made me think a lot more about the morning cuppa which I usually take for granted. How can some leaves in a bag fill me with such joy as I start the day?

As my interest in all things tea has grown, I took a friend along for her birthday to a recent tea-tasting workshop at Petersham Nurseries in Richmond.

Set in one of the many greenhouses, tables were laid out ready, with a tea bowl, tasting notes sheet and plates full of cake - which we resisted for as long as possible as it affects the tasting palate!

Jennifer Wood of the award winning Canton Tea Company ( introduced all the teas we tasted varying from the subtle flavours of the white teas to the more robust flavours of the Oolong teas. She divulged the truths and myths of tea and explained the tea production methods as well as to how to brew the perfect cup! Tea drinking will definitely never be the same again!

Jennifer has very kindly offered to support Independent Age and the Big Tea by running a tea-tasting workshop. If you like tea and would like to know more about this English tradition come along and sample a range of quality teas and learn about the production methods involved.

Date: 8 October 2011
Location: Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Off Petersham Road, Richmond, Surrey,TW10 7AG
Tickets: £10 for the talk and tea tasting or £25 to include a light lunch after the workshop

To book please contact Orla at Petersham Nurseries on 020 8605 3627 or email.

For more information about Independent Age contact Harriet at or call 020 7605 4288.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Good week/bad week

By Rebecca Law, Media and PR officer

This was a bad week for Wilf Cooper of Lockleaze in Bristol after his wife finally got wind of his double life. Contrary to what you may be thinking, this 90-year-old was not guilty of indulging in illicit trysts, gambling or drinking but of sneaking out and secretly running half marathons.

Wilf had already successfully completed six events behind his wife’s back – who believed Wilf to be watching the races from the sidelines - before being caught out by a neighbour who spotted him on TV. “He was in the doghouse that day,” says Mrs Cooper in an interview in the Daily Mail.

Despite his wife’s concern, the 90-year-old, who suffered a heart attack 20 years ago, is planning a swan song: he’ll be running one last time to raise money for St Peter’s Hospice.

As well as keeping himself super fit, Wilf clearly enjoys flexing his social media muscles too. He has his own JustGiving page here. If you’d like to see the full story, read it here.

This was a good week for Britons with a mortgage as record low interest rates mean that mortgage borrowers have shaved £51 billion off their payments since the bank rate hit 0.5% two and a half years ago. That is, of course, really positive news for many, since we’re all feeling the strain in the current economic climate, but it is, sadly, the silver lining of a rather grey cloud.

Those same low interest rates mean that savers – who outweigh the number of borrowers - are estimated to have lost out on £43billion in interest earnings in the same period. Pensioners, in particular, many of whom have paid off their mortgages – so don’t see the benefits that borrowers do - are reliant on the interest from their savings to live.

While borrowers celebrate their gain, pensioners are seeing their spending power slashed, especially when combined with high inflation rates (CPI rose to 4.4% in July). It’s a double whammy for pensioners who get the rawest deal with price rises since they typically spend more on things like electricity and fuel, which have seen eye-watering price hikes this year. You can read more about this here.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Good week/bad week

Have this week’s events brought good news or bad for older people?

By Rebecca Law, Media and PR officer

This was a bad week for pensioners living on a fixed income as figures published by Prudential revealed that inflation cuts the real value of their funds by 60%. We have commented before on how pensioners are hit hardest by inflation, which is higher for food and fuel.

Older people need to keep their room temperatures higher than younger people to stay healthy and are also, perhaps because of problems with mobility, likely to spend a lot more time indoors, pushing the proportion of their income they spend on these up even further. In effect, this means, according to research by Age UK, that while average annual inflation recorded by the Retail Prices Index has been 3.1% a year since January 2008, pensioners have suffered annual inflation of 4.6%.

The figures lay bare the potential crisis we have on our hands since someone retiring this year on an annual income of £16,600, would find the same figure to be worth only £6,700 in 20 years time. You can read more about this in this Daily Express piece.

Still, this was at least a good week for James Bond, Jay Kay, Paris Hilton and anyone else with a soft spot for a stylish motor. Now, as you get older, you’ll no longer have to worry about trading style for practicality as 38-year-old engineer, Andrew Wylie, has created a range of mobility scooters modelled on some of our most iconic vehicles. Scooters which look like a Jeep and a classic Land Rover are apparently already on sale and “The Harley Davidson, particularly, is causing quite a stir”. At 8mph, the scooters, obviously, don’t have the speed of their full-size counterparts but does mean they’re ideal, as Wylie claims, “if you’re looking for a disability vehicle ...[that you] don’t need a licence to ride”. Check out this article in the Daily Mail to take a look.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Good week/bad week

Have this week’s events brought good news or bad for older people?

By Rebecca Law, Media and PR officer

It was a bad week for hospitals as the Patients Association revealed that two out of three patients are not being checked for signs of malnutrition. We were really disappointed at the news, which comes just months after the CQC had found evidence of neglect amongst older hospital patients, with them being overlooked, left thirsty and not given the assistance they need to eat.

We all know that food and water are the basics of care and are vital to rest and recuperation, yet somehow they are still going amiss in our NHS. Staff need to engage properly with their patients to ensure they are being properly looked after – individuals have individual problems and conditions like arthritis or problems with sight can make things like eating and pouring a drink much more difficult for some older people. If staff don’t pay enough attention to the needs of their patients, these things can fall under the radar, leaving older people – and others –entering a downward spiral towards malnutrition and further ill health.

According to Age UK, malnourished patients stay an average of 5-10 days longer in hospital, so overlooking these basic checks is not just damaging to the patients, it does us all a disservice - it’ll be the collective whole who finds ourselves footing the bill further down the line.

This is a good week for over sixties with a problem weighing on their mind. New research from the University of Texas has shown that 'wisdom really does come with age'. According to an article which ran in the Daily Telegraph this week, previous studies, which suggest decision-making ability declines with age, were 'biased against older brains'. The new findings show that younger people veer towards making choices that lead to immediate rewards, while older people tend to take a more measured, strategic approach to decision-making which takes the longer-term into account.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Good week/bad week

Have this week’s events brought good news or bad for older people?

By Rebecca Law, Media and PR officer

Bad week: It looks like it’s a case of hard cheese for those looking forward to a bacon sandwich at the weekend. The cost of living in Britain was laid bare this week with the consumer price index showing staggering price increases compared with this time last year. With the price of flour up 40%, butter up 12.9% and back bacon up 9.2%, it looks like our porcine weekend treat might just be enough to break the piggy bank.

The sharp increases in not just food, but clothes, transport and energy bills caused the CPI to increase to 4.4% this July. We’ll all feel the effects of these price rises, but it’s older people, who typically find themselves living on either fixed or declining incomes, who will be hardest hit.

According to an article in The Telegraph this week, those aged between 65 and 74 are most exposed to petrol, electricity and food price rises, while those of 75 and over will suffer most once the new double-digit energy price hikes come into effect later this month.

This was however a good week for Scotland’s oldest woman, Janet Roberts, who marked her 110th birthday. Janet is the granddaughter of William Grant, the creator of Glenfiddich, making her the matriarch of the Scottish whisky industry, and meaning that she quite literally has whisky in the blood.

Could Janet be living proof that a little tipple does us no harm? Perhaps, but Janet, who, determined to prove herself in a typically male-dominated society by studying at two universities and persuing a legal career, attributes her longevity to “hard work and moderation” - perhaps not quite the response that some might have been hoping for. If you would like to learn more about Janet’s history, here’s the full article .