We all have an important part to play in care issue

Who’s caring for Wales, asks Older People’s Commissioner Ruth Marks.

I HAVE been in post for just over a year and I have spent much of that time travelling around Wales meeting and listening to the views and concerns of older people.

I brought those views to the Hugh James Exchange, a popular business forum in Cardiff, last week and got some very interesting reactions.

As I looked around the audience, I realised that many people were in their 40s and 50s – not that far away from the free bus pass entitlement age of 60 and wondered how many of them were really thinking seriously yet about their future as older people.

I suspect that many of them will want to have the stimulation of work well beyond the default retirement age of 65 and when they do reach that age, they won’t think of themselves as older people.

I suppose that we always think of an older person as someone else, however we all need to plan for the future to make the most of opportunities that are available.

This was one of the key themes to emerge from the discussions during the Hugh James Exchange as a panel of experts in the field responded to a wide range of questions from the audience about the issues facing older people.

I was joined on the panel by representatives from the Royal College of Nursing, Tenovus, Age Concern Cymru and Help the Aged and the Alzheimer’s Society as well as specialist lawyer, Lisa Morgan.

The key points raised included the importance of recognising the huge contribution made by older people in Wales; the complicated systems around receiving and paying for care need to be simplified and clear information provided and that dignity in care should be a fundamental right.

Social care as a profession is not valued as it should be.

This is, I believe, because society as a whole undervalues those who need care.

People’s human rights are not recognised. We need to see a fundamental shift in how we view people who need and receive care.

We need a new way of thinking so that the principles of independence, participation, self-fulfilment, dignity and care are always in our minds when we consider those who need care and how we help them.

This is about older people today, but it is also about the next generation of older people, and the next generation after that.

My answer to the question who’s caring for Wales, is that we all have an important part to play.