Linda Colling: Old people ‘too accepting’

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THEY are neither seen nor heard. High time they changed all that. I’m talking about the silent majority who make up one fifth of our population – pensioners.

The scandal of how hundreds of thousands of old people are going begging for basic, decent care in their own homes was highlighted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which lifted the lid on the shocking and shameful treatment of the frail and vulnerable.

However, that is just one shameful issue that old age brings. That’s why pensioners need to become more vocal, not afraid to speak up and stand up for themselves.

Sunderland could be the city to take the lead nationally. Already such a campaign has been kick-started.

Surprised? So was I. You see that’s the trouble, the elderly just aren’t speaking up loudly enough. Yet, the clarion call to the fit and able bodied has already gone out.

Alan Patchett, boss of Sunderland Age UK, wants more pensioners joining its five forums that run monthly in the city to make their views known.

He told me: “Old people are too accepting. They need to stand up and say ‘I don’t accept this and it isn’t good enough.’”

If that’s you, get on board and raise the issues that Alan, as chairman of the North East Forum on Ageing, can take forward to a national level.

Meanwhile, Esther Rantzen is calling for a minister for the elderly to be appointed. Good idea on the face of it, but I have my doubts that it would change anything, given politicians would predictably just go through the motions and change nowt at all.

There’s Joan Bakewell appointed as an old people’s tsar. What a sop to the elderly. She’s got no real clout.

What an insult by the Government to pensioners pretending that anything is really changing, when all we hear are of more of them – not just the frail and vulnerable – suffering in hospitals and care homes. All down to money and cutbacks.

In Sunderland, the burning issues affecting pensioners are fuel poverty and lack of buses leading to isolation. So they end up staying at home, depressed and forgotten, losing out on accessing the care and assistance they need.

How about the fit pensioners taking to the streets and placard waving I asked Alan? He laughed. But he was by no means laughing off my crusade agreeing: “They need to be more vocal.” And if you think so too, you should head for a forum.

Whether or not Esther Rantzen fancies herself as a minister for the elderly, she hasn’t said. She is calling for a similar 24-hour telephone helpline to Childline, called Silverline, to blow the whistle on abuse of the old.

While the 71-year-old television personality and campaigner tries to drum up funds from charities, care agencies and local authorities for Silverline, the fact is our old are going wanting so disgracefully in our society. Too many are too frightened to ask for help and so they suffer in silence in their homes, care homes and hospitals.

If you want to be seen and heard, call Adrienne Rowley at Sunderland Age UK on 514 1131 for forum details.

In Sunderland, Age UK volunteers do run a friendly voice at the end of the phone service and Nationally Age UK has a telephone line open to callers on any subject. The number is 0800 1696565.