Bob Dales: Making Britain a fit place for elderly people

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IN the second part of a mini-series, Yorkshire Post reader Bob Dales, an environmental journalist who lives near Northallerton, offers a manifesto for change to reflect Britain’s ageing society.

New houses and other buildings should be constructed without steps, and where stairlifts are required, sufficient space should be afforded for them. Stairlifts should be an optional extra.

Pavement steps outside should
not be created where pedestrians
cross roads. Where they exist
levelling/sloping action should be taken.

Water taps should all be of the lever type, easily turned on or off even by elbows. In frosty weather, salt must be applied to pavements as the fall of an old person may cause broken hips or limbs or spinal injury and the possibility of fatalities.

We require furniture which is more suitable for the aged, for example easy chairs and sofas with high enough backs for our heads to rest on.

We want more programmes by broadcasters suitable for old people, especially countryside and wildlife, and more music from the old dances and “musicals”.

We would like Neighbourhood Watch Schemes to be universal and extended beyond crime prevention to neighbours calling on old and housebound aged and disabled.

We would prefer our GP practice to be available out of usual hours, using our medical records to refer to before attending to us.

As increasing numbers of us will be confined to the house, we are requiring eyesight and hearing aid tests in our homes, and need to be informed how this can be obtained. The same applies to dental treatment. This suggests a new constitution will be adopted for these practices.

Most of us now need help financially. The cost of heating and lighting has become a major burden. We use more heat and light the older we get. We have to employ help in the garden and in the house. We increasingly rely on our domestic appliances but the cost of replacing any has escalated. We need relief from council tax – after all we no longer use most of the services provided.

When confined to the house we still need banking facilities regarding the provision of cash, and if there is no close family to help, we ask if banks can provide a “home service”. Shopping for groceries and cleaning materials is also a problem. If this has to be entrusted to carers, few of us could afford to be charged for the quite lengthy periods involved (shopping for clothing and the house we realise can be done by mail order).

We get to the age when “Do It Yourself” is not possible, so our expenses rise when we have to call in tradesmen such as electricians, joiners, gutter-cleaners, drain-cleaners, chimney sweeps and plumbers, but the most expensive are the painters and decorators when the outside of the house, or the whole of the inside, has to be redecorated. We need local authorities to compile, and have available to us, a list of tradesmen available.

We object to means testing also, because it is an invasion of privacy, having to produce bank statements, evidence of all investments and any loans. We want this to stop now.

Few of the oldest age group have computers so there should be no application for information etc confined to that means of communication.

A comprehensive and up-to-date booklet is required stating all benefits which are available, and how to apply.

For those no longer able to visit and shop at supermarkets but who wish to continue shopping there, we would require the supermarkets to make it easy for shopping lists to be received and actioned, and for goods to be delivered. Where bills would be paid by cash or by cheque, this requires “re-thinking” by the supermarkets.

We want a Government which will defend Britain: stop its decline. For example, we allowed the highly successful Jaguar/Land Rover manufacturers to be taken over by an Indian company which is now arranging for these vehicles to be made in China. If such manufacturers continued to produce in Britain, a future export trade, so essential
for our existence, would not have been lost.

We want a realistic, modern constitution as we deplore a second chamber which is another political cockpit, a replacement of the House of Lords which is another gravy train for politicians. We want a second chamber of men and women who have experience of the wider world (lacking in the Commons).

Tomorrow: The future of Britain.