Increasing numbers turning to Age UK for advice
THE assistant director for care services at Age UK Plymouth has said more and more people in their fifties are looking to them for advice.
The independent local charity has operated in the city for over 70 years providing a variety of services to people over the age of 50, including those who may be vulnerable or socially isolated.
And while most people may assume the charity mainly helps more elderly people, perhaps in their seventies and eighties, the local branch is now seeing an increase in the number of people in their fifties seeking help and advice.
Denise Gregson, assistant director for care services, said: "Fifty is quite young, but a lot of people contact us in their fifties. The most difficult thing for people to do is, if they find themselves on their own in their fifties, early sixties, or seventies, is to start a social life – where do you go? And that's quite difficult.
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"A lot of people come to our centres because it's a meeting place in lots of ways. There are a lot of people in their early fifties and sixties who find themselves in a caring role at that age. And we have people coming to us for advice in their early sixties very concerned about their future because the mind and the body is saying I need to be retiring but actually when they do the finances, especially if they are in private or rented accommodation, they find they can't afford to retire. And I think we'll probably end up seeing a lot more of that in the future.
"I think what we'll also see later on is more people coming in their fifties wanting financial advice, pension advice, because of the economic situation. We're seeing more people in their late fifties and early sixties who still have a substantial mortgage, and that's a big concern for people. There really will be a mix in the future and more of a slant on how are we going to remain fit and healthy longer and later in life to be able to meet these commitments.
"I think at the moment we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. It's worrying because the pension rate is moving all the time and so there are a lot of people now, that maybe a few years ago were expecting their pension at 60, who are now having to wait until they're 65, 66, 67, 68. So the question around when is that goalpost going to change and how am I going to survive after that change is causing lots of concern for people. That's the main concern we're seeing with what we call the younger older people."
Age UK Plymouth offers services including advice and information, home care, advocacy, day activities and opportunities, drop-in coffee shops, lunches, internet cafes, residential care, dementia services, and IT coaching. It has also recently been granted some money by the Lottery to provide a befriending service, which will officially launch within the next few months.
"A lot of people will say that this service is their lifeline," said Denise. "I think we probably have a lot of people in Plymouth who are lonely, isolated, and who are maybe not meeting the criteria with other organisations because you have to be substantially and critically at risk before you can apply for some funded service.
"So I think there is definitely a gap of people that aren't aware that they can pop into their local Age UK Plymouth services and partake in a wealth of activities available or even come in for lunch or for advice and information.
"The easiest option for many older people is to disengage and to stay indoors and usually when that happens confidence begins to fade away and the harder it is then to come out and to meet people. There was a scenario a little while ago with a lady we had who was living alone with no family in Plymouth and who hadn't been out of the house for two years. She was a very lonely and very isolated lady in her mid eighties. She was referred to come in to us, initially for day services, or for befriending. So we went to her house, did the initial assessment, and found the lady was very low in confidence so we put a befriender in first, then linked her up to the telephone service and, eventually, she found that she quite enjoyed this familiar voice on the telephone once or twice a week. She was also intrigued by the voice at the end of the telephone and one day decided, with support, to go in and meet the person. She had coffee with the befriender and continued to do that once a week until eventually she came in for coffee and then stayed for lunch. And then she started to look at the activities within the day centre and she decided one day to join the day centre. She eventually ended up visiting three days a week, she made a circle of friends at the day centre and last year, for the first time in a long time, she went on holiday with a group of people she'd met here.
"Now if we hadn't engaged with that lady and encouraged her with bite size chunks then she'd probably still be quite lonely and isolated today."