Letter to the Editor: A vote for older people is also for our future selves

Letter to the Editor: A vote for older people is also for our future selves

With every budget and general election campaign, promises to add a fiver to the pension come in thick and fast.

This time around we have also seen a huge conversation shift regarding the increases to the pension age as political parties scramble to come up with solutions to address a gap in a policy which has been there for more than six years.

But the current “pensions anomaly” as it is being described is just one example of the many ways we are failing to plan for the needs of older people.

We know there are more than 7,800 people on the waiting list for home supports. We see the images of older people who are homeless eating their meals from windowsills on the streets. We know there were 20,000 more older people in poverty in 2018 than the year before. We see these problems, and we know many of the solutions, but sufficient action is not being taken to address them.

The issues raised by the increasing eligibility age for the State pension must be urgently addressed. But this is not the only issue impacting older people, and politicians would do well to remember it.

The fact is we are not putting the measures in place which will appropriately support older people who are most vulnerable. In Alone we see this every day in our work.

In recent months we have worked with someone living in an extremely isolated area who has been on the waiting list for the home support service for seven years. We have worked with older people with terminal diagnoses who are homeless or living in unstable accommodation.

We have worked with people who cut back on their heating and food so that they can afford transport to hospital appointments. These are the people who are not taken into account as Government policies are drafted and changes are made, the ones who never felt any economic recovery.

Older people need more from their representatives than a commitment to add a fiver to the State pension. We need representatives who will deliver real change for the older people we work with, for those most in need of support.

We need the next Government to take action on health and housing for older people and to fund home supports and health services in line with demand, to increase housing delivery targets and deliver housing for older people, to index-link the State Pension to ensure older people have financial security, and to appoint a minister of state exclusively for older people and demographic change who can properly plan for the needs and opportunities of our ageing population.

If the next Government does not implement these actions, the most vulnerable older people in our society will continue to be left behind.

A fiver on the pension here and there is not enough. We must demand more from our representatives.

A vote for older people is not just a vote for older people today, but for all our future selves. We owe it to ourselves to make the change.

Seán Moynihan

CEO of Alone

This readers' opinion was originally published in the letters page of the Irish Examiner print edition on 6 February 2020.

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