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Ageing Matters

July 25, 2013

We’ve spent much of this year working with Hanover Housing on the Hanover@50 Debate, which aimed to stimulate debate and discussion around housing, ageing and care.

Hanover commissioned a number of think tanks to produce think pieces on key issues. Some of the results were unsurprising, others controversial, but all were interesting; most saw coverage across all sorts of media outlets, from the Daily Mail to the BBC and many inbetween.

What is a problem today will become a serious social crisis.

From a communications point of view, it was a fascinating project. As well as brokering a number of media stories, we also had the task of finding the best approaches to launch a number of different pieces of research in quite a tight timeframe; and in a way that all the parties were happy with.

More recently for Hanover, we helped turn some raw data into a new report about downsizing, which made for interesting reading. There was a piece about it in The Times (£), but if you don’t have a subscription 24dash.com also ran a piece.

Hanover’s work has been part of a growing trend which is pushing ageing issues up the policy agenda at the moment. Age UK,  Independent Age and International Longevity Centre – UK have all been keeping the pressure on with the launch of campaigns, reports or policy discussions over the last fortnight.

So I’m puzzled at how it is that the policy makers continue to ignore some of the forthcoming challenges of an ageing population. Paying for care, decent housing and a reasonable level of retirement income for older people are not impossible dreams for our society.

The most recent body swerve came with the response to the so-called Filkin report Ready for ageing?, which said the government was ‘woefully underprepared for ageing’. The challenges and issues it highlighted were echoes of the campaigns I worked on when I was at Age Concern England (now Age UK). And that was twenty years ago.

The government’s response to the Filkin report has been almost too lacklustre for words, although Lord Filkin managed a sharp reply. He suggested the government response showed it was, in fact, ‘wilfully underprepared for ageing’ (my italics). His whole response is worth a look (as is the report itself), if only for the rather strong language one wouldn’t normally expect from a peer.

But it also lays bare the unwillingness of this government, and governments before it, to have a sensible and rational conversation about being ready for the future.

Most of us will get old. If we don’t get a grip, what is a problem today will become a serious social crisis in years to come.

Ben Furner

Ben is director of Furner Communications