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Council services ill-prepared for ageing population

Councils focus on social services ignoring the needs of the isolated and lonely

OnMedica Staff

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Councils are not prepared for the challenges of an ageing population, an Audit Commission report has found.

The Audit Commission says the government's 2005 strategy for older people, Opportunity Age, has the potential to improve the lives of an ageing population, but so far it hasn't delivered those benefits to older people across the country.

The government defines older people as those over 50 years and these will make up more than one in three of the population by 2009.

The Audit Commission used older "mystery shoppers" to identify the everyday challenges they face in accessing council services. They approached 49 councils asking a series of questions and found that most councils need to improve the way they provide information in key areas such as volunteering, leisure and social activities, learning opportunities and transport.

The Audit Commission’s report,Don't stop me now – Preparing for an ageing population, says most council services focus on the minority who require social care, excluding the invisible majority who may end up isolated and vulnerable if ignored.

Michael O'Higgins, Chairman of the Audit Commission, said: "Despite the stereotypes, only 3% of people aged between 65 and 80 live in residential care. But it's worrying that the councils in areas with the most over 50s are the least prepared to cope with their long-term needs and interests.

"Ex-punk rockers and Rolling Stones fans are not going to be happy with a cup of tea and daytime TV. As people live longer, those who can help them stay well and independent, need to be a little more imaginative."

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