Letters, Friday, June 1st, 2012

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Giving a voice to ‘invisible’ elderly

I AM writing in response to Denis Gillon’s letter of May 15. The issues that Mr Gillon raises with regard to older people feeling invisible in society are not unknown to Age UK Sunderland and Age UK nationally.

Social isolation affects about one million older people, and has a severe impact on people’s quality of life in older age. People aged over 80 who live alone are at much greater risk of being lonely than those who live with a partner – particularly in the case of men.  

Given changing demographics and family patterns, it is estimated that the number of people aged 75+ living alone will increase by more than 40 per cent over the next 20 years.

In 2010 we held a debate as part of our Diamond Jubilee celebrations which discussed the issue of social exclusion and isolation, and older people being regarded as “invisible citizens”.  

The key themes which emerged from the debate included:

The contribution of older people should not be undervalued in society.

Good physical and mental health is paramount to all ages – those who are more vulnerable and frail can experience more isolation and loneliness in later life, but low-level preventative services can have a big impact on helping people to remain more active, improve their emotional well-being along with their independence.

Older people’s voices should be heard and older people should be valued more – one possible way to ensure this could be to form an older people’s parliament or similar group.

Age UK nationally states that the government needs to promote a strong message emphasising the importance of access to services and opportunities such as leisure and learning for all – including the most excluded.

Age UK Sunderland runs 50+ Forums across the City, discussing health and social care issues as well as other topics affecting their lives on a daily basis. It is an ideal opportunity for those aged 50+ to join together to have their voices heard and listened to by key strategic decision-makers within Sunderland.

We urge those 50+ who want to make a difference and to be heard to contact us at Age UK Sunderland on 0191 514 1131.

Alan Patchett, Director

Office closures

I WAS saddened to read about the HMRC offices threatened with closure in Sunderland, which are Shackleton House and Gilbridge House in Sunderland city centre and Weardale House in Washington.

I am not too au fait with the Washington office, but I’m well aware of the other two branches in the town centre. The main reason that I am saddened stems from the loss of second-hand row (Silksworth Row) and High Street West, with its 13th-century buildings such as the newsagents, the Old 29, Surplus Supply Stores, Middle Earth Records, the Chinese takeaway etc and, of course, High Street Baths. I know that not all were 13th century, but still a big miss to many folk and what for? Basically nothing, it seems, as the terrible replacement buildings are soon to be defunct.

Over on Silksworth Row was The Fish Inn, or the Inkwell as it was known due to a dark well out back which became Fellas, a host of second-hand shops which I believe were old houses, and many others that have been forgotten over the years.

So, as in my recent epistle about the saving of the leisure centre amid the loss of Crowtree Road, let’s hope the loss of these old buildings isn’t to be in vain as well.

Alan “The Quill” Vincent, Old Penshaw

Patronising letter

RE Tim Dumble’s letter “Is Ofsted really value for money?”. I found the tone of his letter patronising. He wrongly makes an assumption about the type of area where we can expect to find a school with an outstanding Ofsted report.

He failed to mention that Grange Park Primary School, which is in the middle of Southwick, also had an outstanding Ofsted report.

I was at one time Chair of Governors at Grange Park School. It has always had hard-working and committed staff who strive to get the best from their pupils. It is entirely wrong, in my opinion, to suggest that schools in deprived areas will not obtain the same outstanding results as a school in a more affluent area.

It very much depends on the efforts of the staff and their enthusiasm to teach the children in their classrooms.

Every child deserves a good education no matter where they live or what school they attend.

Carole Rutherford

Big thank-you

A BIG thank-you to everyone who generously donated to the Sunderland Volunteer Life Brigade two-day collection at Sainsbury’s Washington on the weekend of May 25-26 for helping us to raise a magnificent £1,150.

Larry Hetherington, Press officer, SVLB