Issues faced by older people tackled at conference
A former Government minister and the Chief Executive of a local dementia action group have joined Stafford’s largest landlord in highlighting the issues facing older people in the community.
The Rt Hon Paul Burstow, former Minister of State for the Department of Health, and Will Boyce were both key speakers at Full of Life, a customer conference organised by Stafford and Rural Homes (SARH) as part of national celebrations to mark the achievements of older people.
The debate was led by SARH Chief Executive Karen Armitage, with around 60 of the housing association’s older customers taking part in the event at the organisation’s offices in Parker Court, Stafford.
Addressing the conference, the former Minister of State for the Department of Health who is now an advisor to the TSA (Telecare Services Association) and Professor of Mental Health Policy at Birmingham University, highlighted the fact that older people make a huge contribution to the nation’s economy.
“In discussions about older people, the language used is often in terms of burdens, neglecting the huge contribution they make to the economy as taxpayers, consumers and carers,” he said.
“Most importantly, we can’t generalise as every older person experiences different circumstances. However, one of the biggest dangers many face is loneliness, which has similar health risks to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. One answer to this may be better use of technology which can help bring people together.”
“However, our social care system is ‘running on empty’ and accounts for just one per cent of the nation’s GDP (gross domestic product), which is not good enough.”
As well as highlighting issues faced by older people, the event also provided practical advice on caring for people with Alzheimer’s and similar conditions from Will Boyce, CEO of Approach Staffordshire and Chair of the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Dementia Action Alliance.
After the conference, which concluded with an interactive quiz and afternoon tea, delegate Jacquie Holmes commented: “The event has been brilliant, bringing people together to talk about things that are really important.
“Will was also very informative, talking about a subject that many people are scared of,” said the 71-year-old who lives in the SARH Independent Living Scheme at Longhope Drive, Stone.
Karen Armitage added: “I’m delighted at the feedback from the event, which gave our older customers the chance to have their say in a debate about the issues they face and provision of services.
“It also provided the opportunity to showcase the contribution older people make to the community and how their experience, enthusiasm and skills can help shape a better society for us all.
“Every year we hold a number of events to mark Older People’s Day, but in 2016, our tenth anniversary year, we wanted to do something a little different and, at the same time, give older people the chance to have their say on what matters to them most.”
Sponsored by care technology firms Tynetec and Doro, the customer conference was one of a series of events over five days organised by SARH to mark National Older People’s Day on October 1. Other events taking place at the housing association’s Independent Living Schemes promoted health and wellbeing and maintaining an active lifestyle.
Pictured: The Rt Hon Paul Burstow speaks at the SARH Customer Conference.