Are we doing enough to support older people in Sheffield? Those in the know have their say

Four our latest Voices feature we ask:- Are we doing enough to support older people in Sheffield?

Saturday, 12th October 2019, 4:25 pm
Updated Saturday, 12th October 2019, 4:34 pm

Here’s what those in the know have to say.

Shiregreen and Brightside councillor and chair of the Sheffield Pensioners Action Group Peter Price, aged 81

There can be little doubt that as a result of Government cuts to Sheffield, services to our elderly and disabled, have been drastically stretched.

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Coun Peter Price at Sheffield Town Hall. Picture: Dean Atkins

This has forced our city to prioritise resources towards social care and our most vulnerable. However there is also a growing need for society to address the needs of an ever increasing number of active elderly members within our communities.

Just as there is a growing concern about the inactivity and obesity among our young with the increasing health implications, we have a similer problem just as urgent facing our elderly with the additional issue of loneliness, probably the most disabilitating condition of all.

There are many challenges facing our over 60s and 70s - the lifestyle changes when retirement comes or even worse losing a partner and being alone.

Being stuck within four walls in front of the TV is when rapid deterioration can set in and this needs addressing. Our elderly need help and encouragement to live life to the full, and to remain as active as their physical and mental condition allow.

Steve Chu, chief executive of Age Uk Sheffield.

The council grant aid 52 lunch clubs with over 1500 attendees many of which offer other activities. They also help fund groups organising walking and swimming groups and dance groups etc all geared to keep our elderly and infirm active and our city owes a debt to the thousands of volunteers involved.

However, perhaps society needs to have a more radical preventative approach.

60-year-olds today are not the 60-year-olds of 25 years ago, there are more of us for a start and while many need care and assistance and perhaps gentle excercise others are alert and willing and wish to keep active and competitive and not treated like invalids.

These attitudes used to exist towards people with physical and learning disabilities – not any more.

Mark Wilde, chief executive of Foxhill Forum

We now proudly organise the Paralympics and Invictus Games and Special Olympics and encourage much more participation, so why balk at doing something similar for the 25 per cent of our population long forgotten by sport.

With a little change in direction we could massively increase participation rates with elderly people who have time, usually more disposable income and a desire to remain healthy, fit and achieve something they can boast about to their grandkids.

Reaching a certain age does not mean the desire is lost to be part of the sporting scene, the comaraderie, the smell of rubbing oils, that great feeling after the hot shower, following a tough work out. We may be slower, our joints don’t bend quite as much and we get out of breath more easily, never the less, the desire and passion may still remain for sport we just need that catalyst, that spark to stimulate us into action.

How about an ‘Over 60’s Games’ - bowling, golf, indoor sports (badminton etc,) swimming, walking football, even an athletic meeting or a triathlon, most of us can swim, cycle and jog.

Sue Smith.

Just check any 10K, half marathon and even full marathons and see how many 60+’s enter. So sports workers give us wrinklies' a chance.

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Sue Smith, aged 65, manager of the Hackenthorpe Community Centre, which hosts regular lunch clubs for the elderly

I’ve been running Hackenthorpe Community Centre, as a volunteer, for the last 20 years and have seen many changes in and around the area and come into contact with many older people.

To the question ’Are we doing enough to support older people in Sheffield? If not, what more can be done?’

My answer to that is no, we’re not doing enough to help many older people.

That said there are many older people in our community who are fit, healthy and have the means to lead an active and rewarding life.

I’ve just turned 65 so I suppose I fit into the ‘older’ category but I don’t class myself as someone who needs support and I’m sure many of you reading this are the same. However, there are many older people who are lonely, sick, or disabled and who find it hard to live happy and meaningful lives.

Take the lunch club for example. We have 60 older people who regularly attend over two days on Wednesday and Thursdays. The statistics read: 1 person 60-69; 22 people 70-79; 25 people 80-89 and 12 people over 90 – these numbers represent 14 men and 46 women who all live in or around Hackenthorpe.

In a recent survey many of these older people classed themselves as disabled with many saying their number one reason for attending the lunch club was to enjoy other people’s company – the two-course hot meal was secondary.

So what more can be done to support our older people? At the moment I’m having to turn people away because I can’t get adequate transport especially if people need help or are in wheelchairs.

Two of the local transport companies in our area need volunteer drivers and people to assist them.

Lunch clubs need volunteers to help with the day-to-day running of each session so I say to the people of Sheffield please consider helping those less fortunate than yourselves and volunteer to do whatever you can.

If you feel you can help, even in a small way, please contact the lunch club referral team on 0114 2536674 or 0114 2536600.

Steve Chu, chief executive of Age UK Sheffield

How can cities like Sheffield become a great place in which to grow old?

Well, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has produced a checklist of the things that make a city ‘age friendly’.

And the great news is that Sheffield’s application to join the WHO’s network of age friendly cities was accepted in May.

There are eight ‘domains’ of age friendliness.

These are:-

Outdoor spaces and buildings - Important things in this domain include enough accessible public toilets, benches in parks and shopping areas, and paths that are free from obstructions so wheelchairs and mobility scooters can get by.

Transport - Affordable, frequent, serving all communities, with polite and considerate drivers and conductors.

Housing - Affordable houses which give people choice about where they can live, in accommodation that can be adapted to meet their changing needs.

Respect and social inclusion - People respect the views of older people, listen to them, and act on requests they make.

Social participation – Lots of appropriate and affordable social opportunities to meet people in local communities.

Civic participation and employment - Jobs and volunteering are available to older people, with opportunities to work part-time or flexibly, to meet their needs.

Communication and information - Not everyone is comfortable using the internet! Ensuring that city information can be found in lots of different ways.

Community and health services - There are great hospital and health services to keep people well and help people to get the help they need where they need it.Age UK Sheffield is leading the city’s Age Friendly project, which is part of the Age Better in Sheffield programme.

We are working throughout the city to publicise what is great about growing older in Sheffield, with our first Age Friendly Sheffield awards ceremony taking place in October.

And we are also working with older people to highlight things that still need to be improved, such as the lack of accessible public toilets in the city.

If you are interested in getting involved in this work, please let us know by calling Age UK Sheffield on 0114 250 2850.

Mark Wilde, Chief Executive of Foxhill Forum

‘Are we doing enough to support older people in Sheffield?’ In answer to your question, no.

We could do a lot more with extra resources reaching out even further. It’s important the needs of older people are listened to but also met through offering new opportunities and interventions which get them out of the house, into something different/new, whilst meeting new people.

Foxhill Forum celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2020 and despite those funding challenges a small team of staff and volunteers continue to provide a range of activities, opportunities and experiences supporting a broad age range as young as one up to 95 years including:-

Our ever popular Over 50’s group who partake in a session of chairobics, a leisurely walk indoor games, and the vitally important cuppa and chat, Hobbies Group, Homemade Crafts - dressmaking, knitting, card making and

IT Drop in including photography.

New programmes being developed as we speak including self-help resources to keep people engaged and occupied such as our Brand-New Feel Good Box, containing a range of activities and resources tailored to the client’s needs.

In response to the need we identified locally around loneliness and social isolation, Foxhill Forum developed a proposal to the National Lottery Community Fund which resulted in securing £256,508 over four years to deliver a new and personalised community befriending service, reaching out to socially isolated local people where they feel most comfortable i.e. homes or other setting/s offering befriending, relationship building and bite size goal setting as a way of developing confidence, self-esteem, and encouraging them to participate in wider community opportunities.

These interventions will lead to a community that is more independent, self-sufficient and less reliant on other services.

We know from our own in-depth research that loneliness is a sensitive subject to broach with someone.

Anyone interested in Foxhill Forum’s Volunteering Programme please contact Mark Wilde, Chief Executive Foxhill Forum 0114 2315522.