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Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt calls for more respect for elderly
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has called for families to look at how they treat older people and end the “national shame” that there are 800,000 elderly people in society who are chronically lonely.
But his comments were met with frustration in Bradford by Older People’s Champion Councillor Doreen Lee, who said older people needed more Government help to stay independent, rather than relying on busy relatives.
Mr Hunt said many elderly people are left isolated because their own families fail to visit them, the National Children and Adults Services (NCAS) conference in Harrogate heard.
People should examine how they treat their own parents and grandparents, he said.
“We know there is a broader problem of loneliness that in our busy lives we have utterly failed to confront as a society,” he added.
But Coun Lee said often older people wanted help to stay independent and did not want to burden relatives.
She said she was in full agreement that some care homes were not doing what they needed to, but added that homes under Bradford Council’s care were of a high standard.
“This Council does very well. We’ve got a lot of things for seniors going on and a lot of help for them,” she said.
Speaking about the way older people are treated in other cultures, Mr Hunt referred to his Chinese wife, saying he is “struck by the reverence and respect for older people in Asian culture”.
“If we are to tackle the challenge of an aging society, we must learn from this – and restore and reinvigorate the social contract between generations,” he said.
Coun Lee said: “It’s a way of taking responsibility away for the Government. It would be wonderful, but all cultures are different and this culture has enough on trying to survive around here.
“We’re not in London. This is the North of England and we don’t need Jeremy Hunt telling us what to do with the elderly. Most need their own independence,” she said.
“Is he going to help those families by paying them money?”
Coun Lee’s role comes under the Bradford & District Older People’s Partnership umbrella, which includes organisations including Age UK Bradford and District.
Head of operations Colin Gornall said: “One of the things Age UK Bradford and District in particular is keen on, is to ensure people in their own homes are not isolated and we have a couple of projects specifically tailored towards that.”
He said part of the issue with supporting isolated people, was finding them and added that his experience was that all cultures had isolated elderly people.
Mr Hunt also raised concerns about abuse of the elderly, telling delegates that 112,000 cases of alleged abuse were referred by English councils in 2012/13, the majority involving over-65s.
Mr Hunt said the new Chief Inspector of Social Care, Andrea Sutcliffe, will act as a champion of the people who use adult social services – the nation’s whistleblower-in-chief.
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