The actress Joan Collins once said
‘Age is just a number. It’s totally irrelevant unless of course you happen to be a bottle of wine.”
What is relevant is the ageing process, which affects us all eventually; and we are living longer particularly in Waverley where it has been estimated there are over 26,000 residents over 65 in 2014 (the largest number in Surrey) rising to over 33,000 in 2025. While sixty may be the new forty, longer life often means longer old age. This should not be as gloomy a prospect as that which faced Tithonus, a character in Greek mythology who was granted immortality by the gods. Unfortunately the goddess who had fallen in love with him and had asked for him to be immortal forgot to include eternal youth in the request. As a result,
… when loathsome old age pressed full upon him, and he could not move nor lift his limbs, this seemed to her in her heart the best counsel: she laid him in a room and put to the shining doors. There he babbles endlessly, and no more has strength at all, such as once he had in his supple limbs. (Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite)
This is not generally representative of what happens to older people in care homes and day centres although there are instances where it is. As a society we have to find the way to make the necessary resources available, financial as well as practical to ensure those who are vulnerable, including older people, receive the care they need.
2015 sees the implementation of the Care Act, which is intended to encourage the NHS to work together with providers of social care (which would be Surrey County Council in this area) and the voluntary sector to create an integrated approach to health and social care. This would mean providing support to older people so that they can live at home for example. Given the scale of the problem and the potential for administrative chaos the only sensible way to approach the challenge is from the bottom up – developing local models involving Clinical Commissioning Groups, providers of social care and local voluntary organisations.
So, what has this to do with Citizen’s Advice? Well, there will have to be radical change to deal with the needs of more older people, which means more people will need more advice and that’s what we do. However we also have unique local knowledge of where problems occur across the borough and are ideally placed to play a leading role in developing successful local partnerships, which can deliver health and social care, focused on areas of need across Waverley.