Age Scotland: More than half of older people don’t feel valued by society

Age Scotland: More than half of older people don't feel valued by society

One in five older people (21%) feel “valued”, while more than a third feel a “burden to society”, new research by Age Scotland has revealed.

The charity’s Big Survey paints a worrying picture of the way older people feel regarded and portrayed in Scotland in the wake of the pandemic.

Age Scotland and Scotinform questioned more than 3,500 people aged 50 and over living in Scotland, finding:

  • 51% of over 50s said older people are not valued for their contribution to society
  • Only 21% felt that older people were valued, while 25% didn’t know
  • 36% believed that they were made to feel a burden to society
  • 34% felt life was getting worse for older people, while only 25% said it was getting better
  • People in their 50s and 60s were less likely to agree that life was getting better than those over 70.

“The Big Survey” from Age Scotland and Scotinform aimed to explore a wide range of areas of life for people aged 50 and over living in Scotland, including their health and wellbeing, housing, experiences of ageism, representation of older people and the impact of Covid-19.

There was an even split of online and offline responses, with every age group and council area in Scotland represented.

Brian Sloan, chief executive of Age Scotland, said: “This research paints a stark picture of how older people in Scotland feel regarded in 2021, and at times made very tough reading.

“The last 18 months have already taken a huge toll on older people, both in terms of the health impact of the pandemic and soaring levels of loneliness and isolation. Now it is heart-breaking to read that most older people don’t feel valued by our society, with more than a third being made to feel that their lives are a burden.

“While many of us are looking forward to the recovery, few over-50s have an optimistic view of the future. Instead of making Scotland the best country in the world to grow older, more than a third feel that life is getting worse for older people.”

He added: “We undertook this work to better understand the challenges facing over 50s in Scotland through the Covid-19 pandemic and as a snapshot of how older people feel about their lives and growing older in Scotland.

“It is clear that the pandemic has had a considerable impact, not just on physical health, but also on well-being and self-confidence of older people in Scotland.

“Although older people are often portrayed as helpless victims in the media, this outdated image belies the huge contribution made by those in later life, even during the pandemic.”

Mr Sloan concluded: “Tens of thousands of Scots in their 50s, 60s, and 70s continued to carry out essential work, including frontline NHS workers, carers, delivery drivers and supermarket workers. Many more older volunteers led the response in their communities, reaching out to those who were vulnerable or in need of help. And across Scotland, day in, day out, older people are tirelessly caring for other family members.

“It’s extremely disappointing that our research has found too many of them do not feel valued. Older people have contributed in countless ways throughout their lives, and no one should spend their later years feeling they are a burden on others.”

Moira Bruce, 85, from the Clackmannanshire Older Adults Forum, added: “Older people are absolutely not a burden, and it can be infuriating to hear politicians and others talk about the ‘cost’ of an ageing population or pensions, and ‘bed blockers’ using healthcare and social care.

“You can understand why so many older people don’t feel valued when our contribution isn’t highlighted very often. They give so much to their community and country as volunteers, support for their families and the economy - whether through work, paying taxes and spending. I see older people out every day in my community going out of their way to help and support others of all ages.

“Older people are like an underused resource bank. Speak to them, not about them and society will be so much richer. What a bonus.”

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