A manifesto calling for the capital’s pandemic recovery efforts to put the city’s older residents at its heart says Covid-19 has had a “devastating effect” on the lives of many of them, particularly those cut off from family and friends, coping on low incomes and from minority ethnic communities.
The manifesto compiled by the charity Age UK London in consultation with local Age UK networks and London-wide organisations, seeks policy programmes tailored for older Londoners who have become still worse affected by loneliness, digital exclusion and crime, and to meet age-related needs for transport options and easy access to healthy food and housing and public spaces designed with their needs in mind.
Age UK London urges all mayoral candidates to “listen to what London’s fast-growing older population have to say and to commit to making the London that emerges from the pandemic a much better place in which to grow old.” London contains around 2.5 million people over the age of 50 and the charity claims to represent “more than one in three voters” in London, due to older people being more likely to vote.
At a virtual hustings coinciding with the manifesto’s publication on Tuesday, Green Party mayoral candidate Sian Berry and Liberal Democrat contender Luisa Porritt set out their policy proposals for older Londoners, with Karen Buck MP representing Sadiq Khan’s Labour campaign and Nickie Aiken MP making the Conservative case on behalf of Shaun Bailey.
Berry said her promise to create a post of Elders’ Champion if elected Mayor has received “the best response” of all her policy announcements so far, with its objective of “monitoring and coordinating the effects of all the Mayor’s policies on older people”, whose representation in the city’s population is growing. She pledged to “install at least 32 new toilet blocks in Transport for London station” with all facilities on the network free to use.
Porritt underlined that the pandemic has hit older Londoners hard but also praised them for having “stepped up to help others during this crisis”. She said her flagship policy for reinventing high streets in line with changes in work and consumption patterns she believes Covid has accelerated would be as beneficial to older Londoners as other age groups. Porritt added that her housing policies would be mindful of the growing need for “specialist housing for senior living”.
Aiken, who is also a Westminster councillor, said “we need a greener, fairer and more ambitious vision for our city,” and claimed Khan’s delivery record is poor and that Bailey offered ambitious by achievable alternative policies.
Reflecting on the diversity and range of life experience among older Londoners, Buck stressed that policies with that group in mind would have to reflect their variety and different needs. She said the number of older Londoners is expected to increase by over 80 per cent in the coming years, broadly in line with the UK population as a whole. “We need to be sure we are increasingly age-proofing our city and making it, in every way, a city that older Londoners are comfortable to be in,” she said.
All candidates are committed to retaining TfL’s 60+ Oyster card, which was introduced by Boris Johnson in late 2012 to fill the gap in entitlement to the separate, largely borough-funded, Older Person’s Freedom Pass created by eligibility for it rising to a higher age. The cost of the 60+ card will in future be funded from the Mayor’s share of Council Tax rather than from general TfL funding – a condition imposed by the government as part of its financial rescue package for TfL after plummeting public transport use due to Covid devastated its income.
Age UK London were disappointed that Khan had withdrawn from the event the previous afternoon, with Bailey following suit. Khan has enjoyed consistent commanding opinion poll leads throughout the past 12 months, with Bailey always more than 20 percentage points behind. A Redfield & Wilton opinion poll published last month found Khan well ahead of Bailey in all age groups except the over-65s, where Bailey had a four point lead.
Watch the Age UK London hustings in full HERE. Image from the manifesto.
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