Julie Morgan MS, Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services
Today is International Day of Older Persons – a day to celebrate ageing and challenge negative stereotypes of older people.
This year marks the 30th Anniversary of this annual event and the start of the World Health Organisation’s Decade of Healthy Ageing.
2020 has been a year of unprecedented changes to the way we live. Necessary restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus and protect people’s health have meant that some families were not able to see each other face-to-face for some time. And for some older people, the pandemic has reduced their ability or even prevented them from giving back to their local communities by volunteering or supporting others.
We asked Age Cymru, Cymru Older People’s Alliance (COPA), the Welsh Senate of Older People, Active Wales, National Pensioners Convention Wales, and Pensioners Forum Wales to gather the experiences of people over the age of 50 living in Wales during the pandemic.
The survey received more than 1,000 responses which are currently being analysed. Respondents were also asked to share their thoughts about how Wales can prepare for the future. The responses will help to shape our updated Strategy for an Ageing Society in preparation for a public consultation.
During the pandemic, many people have had to rely on the support of others for the first time. One 75-year-old told the survey: “Age has never bothered me, but this lockdown has made me feel old.”
But others shared a different experience and spoke of how their local community and neighbours came together to support each other.
Whatever our experiences over the last six months, International Older Persons’ Day is a time to reflect, acknowledge and celebrate the many ways older people contribute to our communities. We must not let this pandemic alter the way we view each other. Everyone, whatever their age, has the potential to make a difference.
At the start of the pandemic, work on our Strategy for an Ageing Society was temporarily paused as we focused all our efforts on keeping people safe. However, the strategy’s vision of an age-friendly Wales, which protects and upholds the rights of older people has become even more relevant in light of coronavirus.
Age Cymru has launched the Friend In Need service to help tackle loneliness and isolation among the over 70s. It is an opportunity for people of all ages to provide friendship and support from our own homes.
To either register for a friendship call, or to make a difference and new connections by volunteering to become a friend, visit the website at www.agecymru.org.uk or call 08000 223 444.
I look forward to continuing my work with older people and their representatives to achieve this vision. We cannot allow this pandemic to embed stereotypical notions that link age to vulnerability and decline and ultimately make it easier for older people’s rights to be overlooked.