We can rise to challenge and improve elderly care

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Last Saturday, my wife and I attended a service to mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of Abbeyfield in Fareham – a home for older people who want to combine communal living with a degree of independence.

What helps make Abbeyfield special is the team of volunteers who spend time with residents.

The service was a great celebration of Abbeyfield’s work and the support from the local community, but it also reminded me of a couple of news stories from earlier in the week.

While Abbeyfield shows just how well how older people can be cared for, the report into the Liverpool Care Pathway demonstrated how badly wrong it can go.

The care pathway was meant to reproduce the best features of hospice care in our hospitals for those coming to the end of their lives.

While at its best it did this, in far too many cases the care given was simply wrong. Dying patients were not always treated with the dignity they deserved.

We should not and cannot tolerate this. An ageing population has an impact on our economy and government finances.

Last month, for the first time, we saw more than a million over 65-year-olds in work. This is good news. This is a significant contribution to the economy and enables older people to have a better standard of living.

But last week, an independent body set up by this government to scrutinise its tax and spending plans highlighted the long-term impact on public spending of an ageing population.

It suggested that it will drive up the cost of healthcare and, whilst this would be partially offset by the impact of pension reforms, it will put pressure on taxes and the country’s debt. This presents us with a challenge.

The service for Abbeyfield was uplifting. It was a celebration of how to care well for older people. An ageing population requires us to reform our services, but we should be confident that, as Abbeyfield shows, we can rise to the challenge and deliver a better old age for us all.