Social contact and independence are key to ageing well according to the latest snap-shot of health and wellbeing in Somerset.
This year’s Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) carried out by the County Council’s Public Health team looks in detail at the issue of ageing well and highlights the importance of maintaining good health, social contacts and personal independence.
Somerset has an ageing population with one in five residents now being over the age of 65, but many will still experience poor health as they get older. The report looks at what people can do to age well and how Somerset as a county can improve the life experiences of older people.
It also highlights how the worst off in our society are more likely to suffer poor health in later life and the need to tackle these inequalities associated with ageing well.
The report, and discussion groups with Somerset people, identified important aspects of ageing well, including:
• Prevention first and foremost as nearly half the burden of disease for older people can be attributed to common lifestyle risk factors such as smoking, alcohol, poor diet and exercise and social isolation
• Having a sense of independence and being able to live in your own home where possible. Community support such as befriending services can help older people to regain their independence
• Social contact emerged as the most important aspect of ageing well with a wide range of low cost activities available
• A new approach to help older people stay at home with support from services, family and community is welcomed
• The value of work and volunteering opportunities to provide social contact and ‘purpose’
• Ageing well brings benefits to society as a whole including a reduction in pressure on services
Areas for improvement were identified, including:
• A greater recognition of carers’ needs considering the bulk of unpaid care is provided by those over the age of 50
• A lack of accessible transport emphasised as contributing to increased social isolation and poorer wellbeing
• Negative attitudes towards older people including media negativity around older people feeling ‘blamed’ for housing and health crises
• The need for greater emphasis on intergenerational contact between older and younger people
Trudi Grant, Director of Public Health, said, “We know the Somerset population is ageing but it’s more than about living longer. It’s about having the support and resources to age well, to remain healthy and to have a sense of belonging in your community.
“Lifestyle changes can help us all to live healthier lives but it is clear that there needs to be a far greater focus on closing the gap between people living healthier longer lives in better off areas than people who don’t. I believe it takes services and local people working together creatively and with a long-term commitment to achieve a better quality and longer life for our whole population.”
Cllr. Christine Lawrence, Chair of Somerset’s Health and Wellbeing Board, said: “This report highlights what a wonderful asset the older population of Somerset are, contributing much through their wealth of knowledge, experience, volunteering and caring roles, to name a few.
“It is essential that here in Somerset we continue to create an environment that supports everyone to remain healthy and active members of our community.”
The JSNA collects information on housing, transport, employment, education and much more. It considers the health, wellbeing and social care needs of the Somerset population and to help commissioners to develop and improve services.
The full report and further information is available at http://www.somersetintelligence.org.uk/jsna
For further information, please contact the Press Office on 01823 355020 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors:
• Active Living Centres – community hubs often providing a café style environment where older people can take part in local activities, enjoy the company of others and access information about keeping well and active
• Men’s shed – a place where men from across the community can come together to learn new skills, work on projects and socialise. This is part of a national project with local centres across the UK http://menssheds.org.uk/
Somerset’s ageing population facts:
• There are 125,000 people aged over 65 in Somerset
• West Somerset has the highest percentage of people aged over 65 at 33% of the population and this is expected to rise to over 50% by 2033
• The number of people aged 75 or more is projected to double in the next two decades
• Life expectancy has steadily risen in Somerset for males and females. Those aged 65+ can expect to live for another twenty years but barely half of this will be disability free
• The largest increase in cause of deaths is dementia and Alzheimer’s, especially for women. An estimated 9,000 people in Somerset have dementia, and many more are carers for those with dementia
• Nearly half of carers over the age of 65 provide care for more than 20 hours per week, predominately caring for spouses.
• Those living in less prosperous areas generally report worse health than ‘actual’ health might suggest
• Somerset has more people than expected with three or more long term conditions suggesting that multimorbidity is closely linked to inequality
• Figures indicate that the healthiest 78% of the population require only 35% of expenditure – about £300 each whereas the 4% with three of more conditions require approximately 50% of expenditure – about £10,000 each per year.
• While ageing is inevitable, 45% of the associated ill-health burden is preventable
• Across Somerset older women are particularly affected by a lack of transport
• Being lonely is thought to be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and the numbers affected by loneliness are rising to an estimated 12,000 in Somerset
• Many people post retirement are often very active in their community and provide a valuable resource for action