The Town Hall has set out to tackle ageist stereotypes with a new strategy on ‘ageing well’, which includes a vision for people over 55 to have “as good a quality as life for as long as possible”.
In an interview with the Citizen, Cllr Yvonne Maxwell, mayoral adviser for older people, explained how the strategy aims to balance the need for services and specialist care for frail and vulnerable people, while recognising that many older people play an active and energetic role in the life of the borough and empowering them to keep doing so.
Maxwell stressed that the plans have diversity at their heart, with the strategy serving, for instance, the needs of LGBT+ older people through the roll-out of staff training, with working groups also to be set up to reflect the experiences of Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.
She said: “One of the things Covid has done is raised the issue around ageism, in terms of a stereotyped perception of older people as frail and who don’t contribute, who are passive recipients.
“What I’ve been very keen with this strategy to do is to manage the balance between needing to look at adult social care and health and how we support people as they do become frail, but we also need to recognise that older people still want to be part of the community and participate.
“They want to work, or they have to work – there are a lot of volunteers, we know an awful lot of older people are carers, so it’s about needing to balance being aware that older people need support, but are part of their community.”
Around 400 people’s lived experience of growing older in Hackney fed into the plans, which also intend to break down the barriers between the generations, with a digital buddy scheme already underway – Maxwell pointed to one older resident who had used it to get on Instagram with the help of a young resident.
Nearly two-thirds of older people in Hackney live in social housing, which is nearly 22 per cent higher than the borough’s average, with seven per cent living in the private rented sector.
Fifteen per cent of people in Hackney are 55 or above, and this is increasing, while older people are also more likely to be carers.
The strategy will cut across all elements of the council’s work, having been released almost in parallel with the borough’s child-friendly spaces plan, with Maxwell arguing that places made accessible for one age group usually turn out to serve another equally well.
She added: “We need to recognise what older people bring to Hackney, but also where older people need support to keep doing that. It’s about having as good a quality as life for as long as possible, and that it’s everybody’s responsibility. It doesn’t just sit in health and social services, it’s all the other elements.
“There was this horrible messaging that it’s ‘only older people’, or ‘only vulnerable groups’ during the pandemic. We’ve had older people still volunteering, going out to work, whether that’s because they need or like to do it. Some have been out cycling.
“That’s not to say there aren’t a lot of isolated, very frail older people that we needed to make sure are properly supported during our response, and that loneliness has come out as a factor in this strategy. No older person should be out of the reach of what we can do, whether that is somebody at work fulltime or in a care home.”
For more information on the council’s Ageing Well Strategy, head to hackney.gov.uk/ageing-well
If you have a family member, friend or neighbour who might be interested in reading Hackney’s Ageing Well Strategy, you can contact 0208 356 4979 or firstname.lastname@example.org to request a hard copy