Homeshare UK, as part of our wider organisation, Shared Lives Plus, are one of over 70 organisations and charities in England calling for the creation of an Older People’s Commissioner for England.
As there’s been such a Commissioner in Wales for fifteen years, we thought we’d ask Tim Crahart, our Homeshare UK Development Officer in Wales, to share his views on the difference this has meant for Wales and, in particular, for older people in the country.
A world first
Ruth Marks was appointed as the first Older People’s Commissioner for Wales in 2008 and when she took up this role, she wasn’t only the first Commissioner for Wales but also the first Older People’s Commissioner in the world.
During her time in office she focused on a range of key issues such as dignity and respect in hospitals, protecting older people from abuse, and promoting the voice of older people. Ruth was then followed by Sarah Rochira in 2012. A large part of Sarah’s time in the role saw her engaging with older people and she conducted the largest review into the experiences of older people living in care homes ever conducted in Wales. She also developed the Ageing Well in Wales Programme along with other reports and research.
Our latest Commissioner, Heléna Herklots CBE, was appointed to the role in 2018 and has continued the work of her predecessors. The State of Nation report, which she issues bi-annually, is a real temperature gauge of the experiences of older people in Wales and the last one, which was published in 2021, gave a clear picture of the effects of the pandemic on older people here. It also highlighted the impact of isolation and loneliness and the problem of ageism and discrimination faced by many older people.
Adding life to years
The Older People’s Commissioner’s current priorities are:
- protecting and promoting older people’s rights,
- ending ageism and age discrimination,
- stopping the abuse of older people,
- and enabling everyone to age well.
On that last point, one of Helena’s sayings is that it’s about “adding life to years, not just years to life” and this is something that resonates very deeply with us at Homeshare. We believe that the Homeshare model contributes to having a life worth living through companionship, positive interaction and helping people to stay in their own homes.
There is also synergy in the work of the Commissioner with Homeshare in challenging those unhelpful stereotypes that we see so often in the media, pitting old against young. We understand the benefits of the generations sharing their lives, skills and experiences together and this is something that the Commissioner in Wales also champions in her work.
Having a role that can challenge practice and policy, defend the rights of older people and uphold their voices is vital in our communities and can only benefit the organisations that work with them.
That’s why Homeshare UK supports the creation of an Older People’s Commissioner for England. You can find out more and add your voice to the campaign, as a group or an individual at: https://bit.ly/COPAsupport