Sir Geoff Hurst, DJ Tony Blackburn, Dame Arlene Phillips, actor Don Warrington and TV chef Rustie Lee have added their voices to the campaign for a Commissioner for Older People and Ageing.
In a video launched today (Monday 17 April), the well-known faces urge the government to appoint a commissioner to act as a champion for older people in England. They also challenge the misconception that everyone in later life is enjoying a comfortable retirement, as the stars spell out the hidden reality that more than 2 million older people are living in poverty, with many more struggling to make ends meet due to the cost-of-living crisis.
The video will be shared as part of an event in Westminster today where Independent Age, a national charity focused on supporting older people facing financial hardship, has joined with other charities and organisations to invite Members of Parliament to find out more about a Commissioner and show their support for the campaign.
Dame Arlene Philips, 79, has recently been honoured with an Olivier award. She said:
“I have been one of the lucky ones, as now in my 80th year, I am still working in a job that I’m passionate about and wake up every morning wanting to go to work, which I believe has gone a long way in helping me stay fit and healthy and inside feel younger than my chronological age.
“From communicating with my fellow older generation, I’ve learned of the truly distressing struggles of finding enough money to eat, keeping the heating on, finding anyone who’s going to help you when you can no longer do things for yourself.
“There are so many things that people need when they are ageing that are mostly ignored, and many feel nobody is listening. We urgently need someone dedicated who cares and will listen. This is affecting more than 2 million older people in the UK and it needs looking at now. A Commissioner for Older People and Ageing is urgently needed. Someone to look into all of the issues that getting older puts on people, particularly when the country is in crisis.”
Tony Blackburn, 80, holds the title for being the longest serving radio DJ and hosts a Sunday show on BBC Radio 2. He said: “I personally am aware that in this country there is ageism. I luckily haven’t come up against it, although I think sometimes it’s forgotten that older people bring experience. Recently with the cost-of-living crisis and the price of electricity in particular, I’ve been really moved by watching the news and seeing older people not being able to heat their houses.
“Older people sitting there with blankets around themselves. It really, really shouldn’t be like that in this country, there should be much more help. Something’s got to be done about it.”
Sir Geoff Hurst, 81, who scored the winning goal in the 1966 World Cup and has just finished ‘an audience with’ theatre tour, said: “I’m supporting the call for a Commissioner for Older People and Ageing because from what I’ve seen and heard over the last few months, the impact of the cost of living is absolutely disastrous for older people.I hear stories of people eating just one meal a day or not having the heating on in their homes. These things are happening every day and it’s absolutely unbelievably difficult for older people to survive under these circumstances.”
Rustie Lee, 73, who can regularly be seen cooking up Caribbean dishes on TV, said: “It’s so important for everyone who is struggling at the moment to know that someone is looking out for them. It’s shocking that for so many older people in the UK a hot meal has become an unaffordable luxury. We all deserve the basics and more as we age, which is why I’m happy to support the call for a Commissioner for Older People and Ageing.”
Don Warrington, 71, who plays Commissioner Selwyn Patterson in hit BBC drama Death in Paradise, said: “I think things creep up on you gradually as you age and that is the thing about ageing. Not fighting it necessarily, but also not surrendering to some idea of ageing.”
More on the campaign
Currently 11 million people in England are aged 65 or over. In less than 20 years, over 17 million (1 in 4) people will be over 65.
If created, a Commissioner would ensure that the long-term needs of people in later life and the challenges faced by the population as they age are considered in policy and practice across all government departments. The role would work alongside the Older People’s Commissioners for Wales and Northern Ireland, to help make the UK the best place in the world to grow old.
The campaign has the backing of more than 70 organisations who signed up to a consensus statement which launched in March this year. It is also backed by the public. In a recent YouGov poll commissioned by Independent Age, nine in ten (89%) of people aged 65 and over said they would support the creation of a commissioner.
John Palmer, Director of Policy and Influencing at Independent Age, said:
“We hear from older people every day who are sitting in cold, dark homes and only eating one hot meal a week as they simply cannot make ends meet anymore. This is dangerous, and shouldn’t be happening in modern Britain.
“We are incredibly grateful to Sir Geoff, Tony, Dame Arlene, Don and Rustie for supporting our call for a Commissioner for Older People and Ageing and shining a light on the issues older people in poverty are experiencing every day.
“It has never been more important for older people, who often tell us they feel invisible and like their views are ignored, to have an independent champion at the heart of government who can ensure that none of us are left out of the conversation as we age.”
To add your name to the support statement for the campaign, see Commissioner for Older People and Ageing | Independent Age