‘Have you heard of the Scottish Older People’s Assembly?’
‘Do you think older people should have special representation to parliamentarians?’
‘What are the specific concerns of older people?’
Just when I though all the questions for SGP candidates would be about wind farms and joining terrorist organisations, along come these. And so they should.
It is in keeping with SGP policy (and common sense) that everyone should have an equal voice and equal involvement in society, regardless of their age. I would tend towards trying to include older people in all decisions and mixing the generations. You can’t have equality without inclusion.
However, sometimes a group feels marginalised and find it needs to organise to achieve recognition. In Scotland this is happening to in two ways, locally there are elderly forums and nationally we have the Scottish Older People's Assembly (SOPA). SOPA is a means of direct communication between older people and the government, funded by a Scottish government grant and Big Lottery money. It exists to give a strong voice to older people about their concerns and experience of life in Scotland. Its aims are achieved through direct meetings with ministers and MSP’s, cross-party groups, and now local consultations across the country. It was one of these local meetings I attended recently.
Tom Burney, the chairperson of SOPA, summarised the main contributions and concerns of older people. He argues, that though older people (that’s anyone over 55) can feel undervalued and a burden on society, they are in fact the glue that holds society together. He says an older society equals a better society.
He illustrated areas of concern with statistics
- 42% of voluntary work in Scotland is done by the over 55s
- 21% of over 65s support their parents
- 73% of carers are 65+
- Over 60s are estimated to contribute £40 billion to the economy
- Older people spend their money so paying good pensions is good the for economy: the ‘silver dollar’ passes form hand to hand
- Half of over 75s live alone
- Many do not speak to anyone other than shop assistants and some (especially older men) do not leave the house for up to a month at a time.
- Pensions in Britain are very low indeed
- In the EU the value of our pension comes 26th of 27.
- 140 000 pensioners in Scotland live in poverty
After the presentations (but before the sandwiches) a discussion raised various issues, from public toilets to housing. When fracking came up the questioner was told it was not an issue of older people. This was quickly contradicted by Ian Wallace, who directed anyone interested to the RIC Unconventional gas extraction summit on the 7th February.
Another controversial subject that was raised was the independence of SOPA, as opposed to the local pensioners’ forums which are considered to be grassroots movements, rather than government directed.
After two controversies it was nice to hear towards the end of the meeting that spending on Trident was blocking spending on housing and health. Surely no one can argue with that?
Seems older people are getting to the root of what matters pretty effectively.
Veronika Tudhope, Central Ayrshire Candidate for The Scottish Greens, 5th Feb 2015
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