Avoiding ‘slipperdom’

31st July 2017

Over 200 people gathered at the Wellcome Genome Conference Centre in Cambridge to challenge the negative perceptions of growing older. The event, chaired by Councillor Colin Noble, Leader of Suffolk County Council explored how public services can better support residents to live well and age well.

The average life expectancy in the East of England for men is 80 years and for women is 84. However, while we are living longer, many of these additional years are spent in ill health. Our healthy life expectancy is only 66 years for females, 65 for males. We need to change the way our local services and environments are designed to better support good quality later lives. We also need to find ways of enabling older residents to feel engaged and valued members of our communities.

Broadcaster and journalist Jennie Bond, originally from the region, highlighted the role public services play in supporting people to avoid ‘slipperdom’ and connect communities. She told the audience that individuals could do a lot to keep themselves healthy, but our environment needs to make this easy through access to community groups, open spaces and public libraries.

Jo Broadbent, Deputy Director for Healthcare Public Health and Workforce at Public Health England East of England said:

“Figures show that while life expectancy at older ages is high, many are spending their retirement living in ill health. Currently fifteen million Britons are living with a long-term health condition, yet studies show living healthily in middle age can double your chances of being healthy when you are 70. We know that everyday habits and behaviours - such as eating too much unhealthy food, drinking more alcohol than is recommended, continuing to smoke and not being active enough – are responsible for around 40% of all deaths in England, and cost the NHS more than £11 billion a year.

 “Our aim is to ensure that people are equipped with the tools and knowledge to make decisions that will ensure that they live a happy and healthy life. Events like this bring together a variety of local specialists with that common objective.”

Helen Oliver, Director, Eastern Academic Health Science Network said:

“It was fantastic to see so many people from across our community coming together to challenge negative perceptions of ageing and celebrate the immense contribution older members of our communities make. The conference showcased cutting edge technology, which can be used to counteract some of the isolation and loneliness that older people might face, while also highlighting the importance that the built environment and social contact can play in helping people to feel valued and fulfilled as they age”.

Cecilia Tredget, Managing Director of the East of England Local Government Association said:

“It was extremely encouraging to see so many important stakeholders come together to debate this enormously important issue.  We all have a collective responsibility to ensure that we are able to meet the dramatically changing needs and opportunities of an ageing population.

Widespread use of innovation is crucial for ensuring that we can all age positively, while keeping our health and care systems sustainable, and this conference offered a really excellent opportunity to progress this thinking in the East.”

The positive ageing conference, organised by the Eastern Academic Health Science Network, East of England Local Government Association, the NHS Confederation, and Public Health England highlighted work across the region to create more age-friendly homes, workplaces and services so that people stay healthy, and remain independent.

 

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