‘Getting Ready for Ageing’ is a new manifesto recently launched by the Ready for Ageing Alliance which aims to get policymakers in Government to engage more seriously with the significance of the ageing UK population. The manifesto warns that the UK’s demography is changing significantly and by 2030 there will be 10% more people aged 85 and over and 51% more aged 65 and over in England than in 2010. By the next election in May 2015, there will be 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK.

The manifesto sets out detailed recommendations for public policy covering housing, health and social care, the economy and communities. It calls for the Government to take the lead, with a single point of contact at cabinet level with responsibility for age and ageing policy. Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK and spokesperson for the Ready for Ageing Alliance, commented on the Age UK website that “…the Government is failing to recognise and address the long term challenges of ageing. We are hugely underprepared for an ageing population - the time to act is now. In the run up to the election we want every political party setting out ambitious plans to prepare for the demographic changes facing the UK.”

One of the recommendations is to stop hospitals from operating on a ‘model designed for the past’, where staff/patient ratios on hospital wards for older patients are often lower than on general wards despite the fact that older people often need more help – for instance with eating and drinking.

Commenting on the manifesto, Lucie Prothero, associate at Penningtons Manches, said: “We support the Alliance’s call to the Government to engage more fully in the challenge presented by our ageing population. Although greater longevity is something to be celebrated,  it places increased strain on our health and social care systems. Despite the widely-reported data that the UK population is ageing, health and social care funding has been squeezed over recent years putting vulnerable older people at risk. We deal with large numbers of enquiries from relatives of older patients concerned about poor standards of health and social care, both in hospital and in the community.

“Within the hospital setting we see many complaints where older people have suffered poor levels of basic care, such as a lack of adequate food and drink from being unable to feed themselves and insufficient nursing staff available to help them. We also deal with cases where older patients suffer falls because they have not been provided with adequate safeguards and support to safely mobilise. The consequences of falls can be devastating for older patients, often resulting in more acute injuries than those which led to their original hospital admission and lengthier hospital stays. This places a greater burden on the healthcare system and sometimes prevents older people from returning to live in their own homes which, in turn, places increased strain on social care. We therefore support the Alliance’s aim of driving the Government to confront the challenge of our ageing population head-on in order to improve quality of care and quality of life for us all.”

The Ready for Ageing Alliance is a coalition of independent charities and organisations, including Age UK, Alzheimer’s Society, Anchor, Carers UK, Centre for Policy on Ageing, the International Longevity Centre – UK, Independent Age and Joseph Rowntree Foundation.