Centre for Ageing Better – Supplementary written evidence (INQ0088)
Evidence from Dr Alison Giles, Associate Director for Healthy Ageing, following her evidence session on Tuesday, 28 January 2020
Session 9: Q 70 - Information about interventions for work-age people
Safe, good quality homes that are designed to adapt to our changing abilities help to maintain or improve our physical and mental health, wellbeing and social connections. Affordable housing is also essential to our financial security in later life. And yet our housing stock is among the oldest in Europe with some of the highest associated health and care costs.
While most of us want to keep living in our homes as we age, much of our current housing stock is not suitable for us as we get older. We need more diverse housing options across all tenures – home ownership, social housing and the private rented sector. The government must address this both by improving our existing mainstream housing and by futureproofing new homes.
The Government should:
Staying in good quality work for as long we want is critical for our financial security now and into the future. Although more people are working for longer, employment rates fall off rapidly from the age of 55 onwards. By the year before people reach state pension age, over half have already stopped working, many involuntarily, and often because of health conditions or caring responsibilities.
Estimates suggest around a million people in the UK aged 50-64 would like to work but are not. As well as the benefits of working to the individual, the Treasury estimates that just a 1% increase in the number of people in work aged 50-64 could increase GDP by around £5.7 billion per year and have a positive impact on income tax and National Insurance Contributions of around £800 million per year.
The government must act to make employers more age-friendly and find new ways to support people over 50 who want to get back into work. Only 16% of over 50s referred to the government’s Work Programme were successfully supported into a job – the worst results of any group, irrespective of gender, ethnicity or disability.
The Government should
One of the most important areas for protecting our wellbeing as we age is holding on to our existing friendships and relationships as well as making new connections with people. We need the places, spaces, transport, technology, activities and services where we live to be more age-friendly and inclusive. The government needs to support local communities to create places where social connections and activity can thrive.
The Government should
Cross-government approach to better ageing
A good later life is something we should expect for everyone. It should not be conditional on where we live or how much money we have, nor should our gender, race, disability or sexuality determine the quality of our later life. And yet, for too many of us, the experience of later life is difficult and challenging. The often negative way we talk about growing old and ageing can contribute to ageism and lead to discrimination in the workplace, poor access to public services, and a lack of products for people in later life.
The UK could become a global leader in developing innovative and inclusive products and services that meet the needs and aspirations of consumers over 50, who account for nearly half of all consumer spending.
Too often the ageing population is seen as a challenge by government and the focus is on pensions and health and social care. Addressing the challenge and seizing the opportunity requires action across all government departments. Government should use more positive language on ageing, continue to encourage business to seize this economic opportunity and take a cross-departmental approach to the challenges and opportunities of longer lives.
The government should:
Do “popular” diets and exercise regimes (“fads” if you will) have an effect (good or bad) upon the public discourse about healthy living?
There is a mis-conception that weight-gain in middle to later life is inevitable. Our daily calorie requirement decreases as we age and yet population-level dietary advice does not reflect this, which may be misleading the public into believing their energy requirements at age 50 are the same as they were aged 20. This may contribute to the weight gains we are seeing among middle to older age adults.
“Popular” diets and exercise regimes keep the topic of health in the public domain. They can also give people hope and motivation. Any regime that dramatically cuts calorie intake will bring about weight loss and so these regimes do work and are not harmful in the short-term but may be missing vital nutrients so should not be adopted long-term. The best regimes will combine quick weight loss with guidance and advice about healthier habits so that when people go back to eating ‘normally’, they are adopting a new normal that is more nutritious and less calorific than before.
Being overweight can lead to Type 2 diabetes. Professor Roy Taylor and his team at the University of Newcastle have shown that dramatic and fast weight loss (15kg over 8 weeks) can lead to the reversal of Type 2 diabetes. Therefore any ‘fad’ diet that leads to rapid weight loss can be helpful in this regard. Again, the difficulty is in sustaining diet and activity changes over the longer-term to prevent the regain of weight.
The Government should
The Obesity Health Alliance sets out the evidence for the measures that Government should take.
12 February 2020