GWENT’s population is aging and as more people live longer, services must evolve to ensure people are not excluded or viewed negatively simply because of their age.
This is the view of the charity Age Cymru, which told the Argus this week’s census results should be seen as a good thing.
Census data shows that the number of people aged 65 and over is increasing across Gwent, although the general population and other age groups are declining.
In Monmouthshire there are 26% more people of retirement age than a decade ago – the biggest increase in Wales.
The county borough of Caerphilly is not far behind, at over 20%, while the average increase in Wales is over 17%.
Estimates suggest that one in four people in Wales could be over the age of 65 in 20 years.
“We are celebrating that people are now living longer, allowing them to continue to contribute to Welsh life in so many ways,” said Victoria Lloyd, chief executive of seniors’ charity Age Cymru.
Older people still play a major role in society, even if they have reached retirement age, either by continuing to work or playing other community roles.
“Many older people are caring for loved ones, in the workplace they bring enormous value by sharing their knowledge and experiences gained over many years, while others have become the cornerstone of a much of our community volunteering,” said Ms Lloyd.
But discrimination is a real concern in today’s aging society, Age Cymru said, and work needs to be done now to tackle the problem in the years to come.
How can ageism affect people’s lives?
Ms Lloyd said ‘the lives of far too many older people are affected by ageism and age discrimination’ and that ‘older people are viewed negatively or stereotyped simply because of their age’.
Ageism can be occasional and pervasive, and on a day-to-day basis it means older people may not have their views respected or they may have to accept poor quality or inadequate services.
“Indirectly, this can mean that the needs of older people are not taken into account when designing services. So, for example, services provided entirely online can discriminate against older people who do not have not the technology or the means to access it,” Ms Lloyd said. .
There are also practical solutions for dealing with ageism.
“We should also remove any physical or social barriers that prevent older people from becoming active citizens in their communities, whether it’s something simple like unsafe pavements or poor transport links,” said Ms Lloyd, adding: “Addressing ageism in all its forms is a cornerstone of the steps towards an age-friendly Wales, which is so vital to supporting our aging population.”
What does the Welsh Government say about ageism?
Last autumn the Welsh Government published its plan for an ‘age-friendly Wales’ which it said would ‘change the way we think about ageing’ and value the many societal contributions of older people.
Addressing the Argus this week, a spokesperson for the Welsh government said the plan “sets out how people of all ages will be supported to live well and age well and challenges the way we think and feel about ageing”.
Among these main objectives are improving access to health care, ensuring that housing for older people is suitable and safe, helping them to remain active and combating age-related poverty.
Some £1.1million has been given to councils to help them adapt to the plan, and Age Cymru will also play a part in raising awareness of older people’s rights.
The government said it would also work with the Elderly Commissioner for Wales “to ensure the voice of older people is heard and help create positive change that meets the needs of older people”.