Mrs Sheila Darzi – Written evidence (INQ0018)
About myself and therefore my eligibility to submit to this Committee.
I was born in 1937 in Blackburn Lancashire. I went to Bristol University buy sadly it did not work out but I gained a Diploma in Institutional Administration at Q.E.C (part of Kings)and then became the first Home Economist to enter Social Work. I retired in 2000 having mostly been a basic grade social worker latterly specialising in disability.
On retirement, I gained a diploma in Social Anthropology at Birkbeck then went on to take a degree in Anthropology at Roehampton which I gained in 2010. In the meantime, I started a Social Anthropology group with Guildford U3A which now enters its fifteenth year. I have seventy four people registered. I am also writing a memoir.
I live with my husband of 85. We enjoy reasonable health, sufficient for us to be going to Northern India on September 20th, one of many holidays. However, I suffer from AMD and restricted vision.
General Approach to the concept of managing increased life quality post retirement.
First of all may I say that I believe that my age group had the best deal ever. The war made us resilient and risk taking was normal. University or professional training was available and fees were paid. However, most of us got a taste of ordinary life in order to earn extra money. Work was easy to get, and if we wished, it was ‘for life’. We did not fall out of work exhausted as those approaching retirement will now be required to do. We may require much medical attention but other generations would have been dead by now.
It has to be recognised that there are social implications in establishing a quality of life post retirement. As with all social issues, PREVENTION is the main consideration. Anyone approaching retirement who has suffered long ill health, or who has a poor employment record is hardly going to look upon retirement with delight.
When I trained as a Social Worker, PREVENTION was the ethos. Sadly, with depleted resources and negative attitudes, we are in a ‘sticking plaster society’ form health through to prisons. In order to improve life at the end of our lives, we need to pay attention to the beginning. Somme people will always need support and the idea of a ‘nanny state’ does have at least some good points.
This leads me to my thought on this whole procedure. Very few people are able to achieve change and adaptation alone. (adaption is an anthropological process) so the second approach from my social work training is TO EENABLE. Modern life tends to expect older people to learn new tricks overnight.
1.At the risk of sounding patronising, it is not possible to educate the whole community about good health information. However, over a period of time the dangers of smoking eventually ‘got home’ and I believe fewer young people now smoke and many have given up. Advice on dangerous habits needs to start at ‘grass roots’ level and young people now drink less than former times. Sadly the third hazard -drug taking’ involves many social issues, aspirations and a feeling of hopelessness. Note new discovery of opiate prescription drugs.
Conversely, the government initiative for diabetes prevention in the form of g.p. referral to a series of classes has possibly failed through its over-zeal. My husband attended around 15 such classes with copious pamphlets and a somewhat ‘boot camp’ approach, Two comments. First, very many people dropped out and secondly, the presenter were only trained to follow the programme. They could not answer any side issue questions. I do feel that it was an effort of the government to be seen to be acting but at a huge financial cost. The course fizzled out with no feedback.
2. My Local Authorities Waverley and Guildford have presented an excellent programme called ‘Lets Get Steady’ – the main focus being to prevent falls. It was clear, concise and non patronising and the audience of around 30 at our local Day Centre was mixed from daily Day Care attenders to local residents like ourselves. There was a lot of extra information.
The prevention of falls is paramount to good health in old age. Falls cause lack of mobility, isolation and depression. This programme illustrates that members of a local day centre and of u3 A can be recipients of well presented information. (I now attend a mature ballet class). I cannot emphasise prevention of falls enough.
The SHARP project at the University of Surrey is working well at informing older residents of scince and medicine but the intake is small. This is how I became involved in this Submission.
4. There are excellent presentation by staff from the Alzheimer’s Society with pamphlets etc. They will speak at any group.
By the tine the target date is reached, many more people will be more technically equipped. Those reaching retirement by this stage are at this point in time, exceedingly technology literate and this will have a profound effect on planning.
Those of us in twilight years now are very mixed in their use and grasp of technology. Many people from late sixties have never used a computer, tablet or Smart phone. Many more are resistant to be confronted with a machine instead of a person. For example, automatic checkouts/in, bank transactions. Older people like a person.
I will leave suggestions for the three points to experts, However, for older people now, lack of accessibility to a face to face at the surgery is essential for most older people. We do not like an unknown ‘triage’ phone call, even though we understand the high demands on g.p.’s. A further example is that a friend, inconsolable following the death of her husband after 60 years marriage was offered phone therapy which upset her even more. Some of the problem is impaired hearing.
8. As I stated, by this time, the elderly people will use technology with confidence.
In the meantime, it is quite surprising how many over seventies area using smart phones, tables, I phones and of course computers and are using ‘apps’ (not me) Only two people in my class are without computers. Having said this, there is still a long way to go.
Somme organisations do not take into account the fat that older people may not be able to use text. I find it difficult with my impaired sight so I get very annoyed when some forms or commercial firms require only a mobile phone number. Argos for example will text me when my product is in. But I do read texts. Again, time will improve technology which will have to be the next step.
12. As mentioned previously, inequalities and acceptance are a barrier to this goal. In particular, there may still fifteen years on be problems with working towards this aim with ethnic minority groups. I feel that the leaders need to consider different ways of working with different groups which may not be acceptable to some ‘principled’ people!!We are very diverse throughout our lives and this does not change with age although obviously some elements are common. Loss of sight and hearing are not necessarily as a result of deprivation and lifestyle, neither is dementia.
Provision of activities and services are absolutely essential for a variety of well established reasons. Physical, mental and social engagement, preferably all three enhance life no end. In addition to initiating services, people should be encouraged to start goups. It has become apparent that the merely social groups with no focus are dying out, as are their committee members. More dynamic activities are needed.
1.Following on with PREVENTION, several excellent health checks cease, mostly at 70.
Breast Screening stops at 70 but can be requested for the rest of your life. Many women do not know this and ca of the breast often occurs in over 70’s.
Our local GUTS screening has a similar embargo.
Shingles jabs are also limited.
All preventative procedures should be maintained.
2. Not all discomfort comes from a major illness or condition. In old age, it is often small issues which can cause much distress and most people are too embarrassed to seek advice. For example.
3. Diet advice and good practice is essential. There is a big push for healthy Eating but is it taken on board? Of the many programmes and magazine articles about food, how many people still cook a chep,healthy meal?
4.You are looking at 50 somethings now and there is no way you could engage this massive group with a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit to discuss health prevention. However, intensive programmes on eg osteoporosis, diet and encouragement to exercise.
Pre retirement progs were financial. No doubt health insurance Companies would be happy to do programmes on preventative health.
5.Obviously you are aware of the recent report from the APPG on inclusive growth which stresses that well-being is the top priority. As previously mentioned, repair cannot come to early but it must be a holistic approach covering not only health and finance but all the social issues such as education, social work support, feasible diet advice, treatment of offenders and abusers, including prescription opiates with a target aimed at increasing the ASPIRATIONS of the community of a whole. Ideally you need to start with the cradle, as part of a massive programme of improvement, not just at the fifty-somethings.
17 September 2019