We all know the population is shifting, with older people forming a significant proportion of the population. But there is more than one type of change happening. The phenomenon of increasing obesity levels in the UK has led to a raft of public health initiatives aimed at tackling the diet, health and well being of people of all ages. It is well documented that changes in behaviour can be slow to happen and at the moment most initiatives appear to be stemming the tide rather than turning it, but there is no doubt that people’s body shapes are changing. Less well documented are changes in height; Europeans are on average getting taller and the universal approved heights for everything from beds to transport is increasingly too small or short.
The Government announcement that Ordnance Survey map data will be freely available online from 2010 attracted limited media attention. The decision, coming just a few months after the launch of new crime maps, (http://maps.police.uk/) could help us better understand statistics about crime, health and education by for example, local authority or electoral boundary.
Cohousing is the daily experience of thousands of people around the world who have chosen to live in residential communities with shared services and facilities. The cohousing movement started in Denmark in the Sixties and now is spreading in Sweden, Holland, United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia and Japan. Cohousing communities combine the autonomy of private dwellings at a lower cost with great economic benefits with the benefits of shared services, resources and spaces like gardens, workshops, gyms, libraries, meeting and guest rooms and leisure areas. One of the main reasons that leads cohousers to live in these cooperative neighbourhoods is the desire to restore their social life while maintaining the absolute independence of their living spaces; to benefit from good-neighbourly mutual help and to reduce the complexity of life and the stress caused by managing daily activities.
Speech and language therapy (SLT) is not an area which often attracts a lot of attention in older people’s policy yet it is an area of potentially significant concern. Around 2.5 million people in the UK have a speech or language difficulty and whilst the most likely users of speech therapy services are younger people, the figures below show that the over 75s are also major users of SLT services.
While Oscar Wilde was clearly not contemplating the finer points of identity construction when he penned these celebrated words, they hint at the highly ambivalent, contingent and multiple nature of identity. People can be many different things and yet for older people, one could argue, there is an increasing emphasis on a singular classification of identity based on their age.
Across Europe there is growing awareness among citizens of the importance of engaging in physical activity to maintain health and wellbeing. Decreasing levels of activity among populations in Europe are, however, a particular concern, with the 2002 Eurobarometer study suggesting that two thirds of the adult population in EU countries is insufficiently active to achieve optimal health benefits. While many express the intention and desire to be more physically active, this is often not translated into action.
The General Assembly of the United Nations stated, in 1990, that the 1st October would be the International Day of Older Persons. The activities, organised world-wide during this day, are a reminder that the rights of older people are inseparable from the principles expressed by the United Nations. Last year Ban Kid-moon, the current Secretary -General of the United Nations, said that “The United Nations is committed to promote the independence, participation and dignity of older people and to combat all forms of neglect, abuse and violence”.
The German election has highlighted the increasingly dominant role played by an older (and ageing) electorate across the world. Those over 60 in Germany make up over three in ten of the electorate (20 million of the 62 million) whilst the over 50s comprise almost half of those entitled to vote.
The publication of the annual set of Internet Access statistics from National Statistics has emerged again to almost no media or public interest. Yet in terms of age and digital exclusion, the findings are both fascinating and slightly depressing.
The Department for Transport has published the findings of the National Travel Survey (2008). Coming after a recent media furore about free travel for older people, it is interesting to see how the travelling habits of older people are changing. With isolation among older people a continuing problem, the importance of mobility to older people cannot be underestimated.