From poverty, to lack of appropriate care, to inaccessible transport, and loneliness, I want to remove every single barrier to older people leading fulfilling lives in London.
I also want to celebrate the amazing contributions older people make to our communities and our city.
That’s why I will create the first ever ‘Elders Champion’ in City Hall if elected in May. The holder of this role will have the task of monitoring and coordinating the effects of all the Mayor’s policies on older people, while representing the unique and changing interests of this group.
Older people in London are a growing demographic. According to Age UK London, there are 2.5 million people aged 50 or over living in London, with 1.1 million aged over 65. This cohort is expected to grow at a faster rate than younger age groups, giving London an ageing population.
Rates of poverty among people of pension age are higher in London than the national average (19 per cent compared with 14 per cent) and less than a third of those aged 50-64 who are out of work consider themselves retired.
The pandemic has also uniquely affected older people. Nationally, Age UK has found that 1 in 3 older people are more anxious than before the pandemic, over half are less confident taking public transport, and 1 in 7 have had their care reduced.
London’s Elders Champion will be tasked with prioritising the needs of older Londoners across issues such as work, emotional wellbeing, physical health and economic security. They will also support me in kick-starting an immediate package of policies to be published in my full manifesto.
One of the first things we’ll do is work together to make all tube toilets free and install 32 new toilet blocks in Transport for London stations, along with six new fully accessible Changing Places facilities. This was a proposal originally put forward in 2020 in a Green amendment to the Mayor’s budget, but has not been adopted by the current Mayor despite widespread cross-party support across Assembly members.
My colleague Caroline Russell AM has campaigned for free toilet provision in London throughout the pandemic, calling for park toilets to be reopened when closed and successfully pushing the Mayor to commit to making all TfL toilets free in response to the pandemic.
A report by the Royal Society of Public Health found that as many of one in five people in the UK go out less often than they would like for fear of not being able to access a toilet, and acknowledged that older people are affected “disproportionately” by this ‘loo-leash’.
Age should be no barrier to playing your part in the life of London, and that’s what our Elders Champion will make their mission from day one.