2021 has unveiled mixed fortunes for older Londoners. The promising news about the roll out of vaccines is very heartening, but older people now face another lockdown in the depths of winter. Above all this adds to uncertainty and the inability to plan lives. So, what needs to happen now in terms of an agenda to give hope to older Londoners.
First, we must cope with the effects of lockdown on older people particularly those at risk and reinvoke the “spirit of march”. Positive Ageing in London outlined a Survival plan for older Londoners before Xmas ( A LONDON SURVIVAL PLAN FOR OLDER LONDONERS FOR THE WINTER | Positive Ageing In London (pailondon.org.uk) anticipating the likely problems facing older people in the first quarter of 2021. This has been endorsed by other age organisations across London, but we still need to see concerted action by the GLA and London Boroughs and we’ll be monitoring progress. We also issued a survival guide for older people with advice and tips for COVID-19 Pandemic Survival Guide & Tips For Older People | PAiL (pailondon.org.uk) and we’ll be updating this regularly over the coming months to include new advice and address issues .
Second, although the vaccine is being rolled out, older Londoners need more certainty about when they will get their dose. At presenta 61-year-old Londoner with no health conditions according to one of the vaccine calculators may have to wait until May for their first dose and August for the second https://www.omnicalculator.com/health/vaccine-queue-uk. Given the enormity of the vaccine in giving hope to older people then its key there is more transparency from government about plans, the arrangements, and timelines.
Third, we need better information on how COVID-19 has affected older people in London in terms of implications. Anna Dixon CEO of Centre for Ageing Better published a helpful new year’s blog How can we learn the lessons of Coronavirus? | Centre for Ageing Better (ageing-better.org.uk) focusing on the key issues for 2021. But we need a London equivalent which assesses the actual impact on the ground in London. There are whole host of unanswered questions. For example, what are the waiting list rates for older people in terms of elective surgery? What will the effect be on older workers in London post furlough? How have older people’s physical health been affected during lockdown? Has the digital divide affecting older people been alleviated? This hard evidence is required to help plan for the future.
Finally, hope is not just receipt of the vaccine, but also ensuring that the lessons of coronavirus for older people are adequately addressed by decision makers in London in terms of making London an age friendly city. The jury is still out on the ambition of London’s Recovery Board and whether it will actually deliver a policy programme so that older people can expect a better future. The risk is that this gets forgotten or downgraded given other urgent priorities for example the young. But older Londoners are also voters and the forthcoming long awaited Mayoral election is a way of auditing whether older people’s needs and the progress of age friendly plans by the GLA have been addressed.
Vice Chair, Positive Ageing in London