Listen to us, say older people

THE main issues and challenges facing older people in Fenland will be highlighted at an important meeting in Cambridge next Friday.

They were discussed at a special workshop that brought together councillors and officers from Fenland District Council and Cambridgeshire County Council, health professionals and representatives of voluntary organisations, as well as older people from the community.

They agreed that Fenland differs in important respects from other parts of Cambridgeshire and that “one cap does not fit all” in the ways that services are provided.

Participants identified some key strengths of the way that older people’s concerns were being tackled here through the work done through FDC’s Golden Age programme, organisations such as Age UK and some local groups.

Many delegates praised the work of local councillors, saying they really took the community’s concerns seriously.

However, they pinpointed several significant gaps or weaknesses, too. Poor transport services were seen as a particularly serious problem in a rural area, making it hard for many people to access health services and contributing to their sense of isolation.

There was also broad agreement that information about local services sometimes did not reach everyone in Fenland and that it needed to be more widely shared.

All the feedback will now be taken forward to a county-wide workshop which is taking place on Friday (March 16). The board has been set up as part of the current health reforms.

Cllr Ralph Butcher, FDC’s portfolio holder responsible for health and wellbeing, said: “It was an extremely well organised event – very professional but also very relaxed. We had a very good mixture of people there and gathered a lot of useful information.

“Several people made the point that Fenland is different to other areas and that one cap doesn’t fit all. We’re keen to make sure that the particular issues we face here are fully taken on board by the new board.”

Cllr Butcher paid tribute to the work of Golden Age, noting that it had enabled older people to identify and claim nearly £750,000 in benefits to which they were entitled.

But he said no one should forget that Fenland faced several big challenges, including tackling the levels of deprivation in some wards, which matched the highest in the county.

The workshop was led by Catherine Wilton, from the Local Government Association, which is supporting the establishment of an overall health and wellbeing strategy for the county.

Fenland has an ageing population, with proportionately more older people than other parts of Cambridgeshire. About a quarter of the district’s current residents are pensioners and one in seven households consists of pensioners living alone. From 2016 on, the proportion aged 65 and over is forecast to increase significantly.