Report from older people’s forum lays bare the impact of Covid – and looks ahead to the “new normal”

“Nobody understands the needs of the elderly until they are old themselves. Believe me.”

A new report from the Tunbridge Wells Older People’s Forum (TWOPF) offers a snapshot of members’ views, one year after Covid-19 restrictions have largely ended, and reflects on the views, hopes and concerns of the 167 respondents who participated in a survey about what the “new normal” could and should look like.

Contributors to this survey have highlighted a desire to regain the spontaneous and unlimited access to friends, family and the wider community that they enjoyed before lockdown restrictions were imposed.

Many of the issues identified predate Covid-19; some pre-existing issues have worsened following the removal of Covid-19 restrictions. Other completely new challenges have arisen from, and remain, beyond “Life in Lockdown”.

In addition, with the advent of a “new normal”, respondents tell us that we need to repair and improve many aspects of daily living that they report are prejudicing their ability to live their life to the full. For example, relatively minor obstacles that we might negotiate easily when we are fit and active, may become excluding – and indeed disabling – as we grow older.

In short, the “new normal” should offer an opportunity to promote choice, opportunity and inclusion, and explicitly resist the default mode to ‘lump together’ and marginalise older people.

Not all solutions to achieve this are necessarily complex or expensive.

The key findings acknowledge some good experiences, largely related to aspects of social/community activities and experiences in received healthcare. Unfortunately, there are many areas of concern, notably in relation to:

•          The use of technology to access basic services, often with no alternative;

•    Getting around outside the home in safety, facilitating socialising and using public services; decreasing public transport reliability and frequency; and increasing unsuitable parking;

  • Medical matters and ease of access to suitable services in health and social care.
  • Timely and appropriate access to GPs, hospitals, dentists and social care services.

Suggestions are made in the conclusion which seek to improve the experiences and outcomes for older people. It is important to acknowledge that measures taken to improve the lives of this group will also, of course, have many overlaps with other disadvantaged, “hard to reach” and vulnerable groups, so an even larger part of the local population would benefit.

You can download the full report here:

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