Successful Ageing

Many more people are living longer in the UK, which is great news, but also means we have to look carefully at health care, social care and how we integrate older and younger people in society. The one-day conference at the Royal Society of Medicine, at which I will be speaking, is looking at Successful Ageing, and we hope to cover all the ways that we can improve life for people over the age of 65, including improved nutrition, nursing supply and dealing with inequalities in later life.

I do worry that there is a division opening up between the old and the young with some young people increasingly feeling that older people are somehow to blame for everything from the housing crisis to Brexit. In fact, most older people do their best to provide and support their children and grandchildren and they have a wide range of political views too.

I do worry that there is a division opening up between the old and the young with some young people increasingly feeling that older people are somehow to blame for everything from the housing crisis to Brexit. In fact, most older people do their best to provide and support their children and grandchildren and they have a wide range of political views too.  

Integration should start in the workplace and the community. We want older people to stay in the workplace if they wish and be part of the mainstream. Older people should be helped to learn about new digital forms of communication from smart phones to apps. If they are out of date, they can easily become isolated from younger people. Younger people should be given more opportunities to meet and engage with older people, whether than means volunteering in free time, or even being given time off by enlightened employers in the working week.

With increasing longevity and better health comes more responsibility for old people. I think we should consider doing away with the term ‘pensioners’ which defines older people simply by the income they get from the State. In the US they use much more positive terms such as ‘Seniors’.

And if someone is still working full time in their 70s and earning a good living, should we really also allow them to pay no National Insurance contributions even if they can well afford to? This is the case at the moment, which I think is very misguided. Also, if they receive benefits in kind like free bus passes, free TV licences, winter fuel allowances, yet are earning more than young apprentices in their companies who have to pay for public transport, should this not be declared as benefits and taxable income? We need people to contribute according to their abilities and earning power, whatever age they happen to be.

Of course, there will be many older people who do retire and no longer work. Many too will need help and support from the state and dementia is a growing and worrying problem. I think we need to be creative about how we tackle issues like dementia. Music therapy can make an astonishing difference and literally bring people back to active life.

I have seen this myself. I think we need to be creative about how we tackle issues like dementia. Music therapy can make an astonishing difference and literally bring people back to active life. I have seen this myself.

I once attended a workshop at the Wigmore Hall which was given by a very talented musician. He was working with a group of elderly people who had dementia and their carers. At the start of the two hour session, there was very little input from anyone in the group and a lot of vacant staring. By the end, they were singing Scottish ballads and folksongs that they remembered from their youth, or had just learned that day. They were engaged and talking to one another. Such was the power of music.

The International Longevity Centre recently published a report into dementia and music which brings together the evidence to show the real value and benefits of music for people with dementia, minimising symptoms such as stress and anxiety and helping to increase social interaction. I hope that this kind of therapy can be used more widely.

Successful Ageing: A Multidisciplinary Approach is taking place at the RSM’s London HQ on Monday 28th February 2016. Register here.

Baroness Sally Greengross

Baroness Sally Greengross

Baroness Sally Greengross has been a crossbench (independent) member of the House of Lords since 2000 and Co-Chairs four All-Party Parliamentary Groups: Dementia, Corporate Social Responsibility, Continence Care and Ageing and Older People. She is the Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Choice at the End of Life, and is Treasurer of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Equalities.Sally is also Chair of the cross-party Intergenerational Fairness Forum.

Sally is Chief Executive of the International Longevity Centre – UK; was Co-President of the ILC Global Alliance from 2010-17 and is now their Special Ambassador; and was a Commissioner for the Equality and Human Rights Commission from 2006-12.

Baroness Greengross was Director General of Age Concern England from 1987 until 2000. Until 2000, she was joint Chair of the Age Concern Institute of Gerontology at Kings College London, and Secretary General of Eurolink Age. She is an Ambassador for Alzheimer’s Society, SilverLine and HelpAge International.
Baroness Sally Greengross

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