Friday, 16 August 2019

Britain is a country with a nation called Scotland where poor boys grow up to live short, unhealthy lives as old men

According to data published by the 'National Records of Scotland', poor boys in Scotland, living in one of its most deprived areas, will live 13 years less than rich boys, in wealthy areas, when they are old men.

So good luck to you poor boys born in Glasgow City, because in Britain in 2019,  you are likely to have a significantly shorter life than your wealthier counterpart in East Renfrewshire.

Not only are the figures a stark reminder that deprivation has a significant effect on life expectancy, but an even greater one on 'healthy life expectancy' and when it comes to that for poor boys, as opposed to rich boys when they are old men, the difference  is 22.5 years.

Registrar General for Scotland, Paul Lowe, said : “This year’s review shows that there have been changes in Scotland’s life expectancy and mortality trends. Life expectancy in Scotland has been increasing over the long term, but recent estimates indicate that it has stopped improving. The largest causes of the stall in life expectancy are the slowing of improvements seen in the reduction of deaths from heart disease and increases in drug related deaths.”

The Head of Public Health at National Health Service  Scotland, Gerry McCartney said the stalling of life expectancy improvements in Scotland was a real concern :  “The circumstances in which we live should not impact on health so much that the right to live a long and healthy life is compromised by how much money we have."

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Brexit 'Britain' is a country which is, in the mind of its old Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, facing an existential crisis

The Collins English Dictionary defines 'Great Britain' as the island consisting of England, Scotland, and Wales, which together with Northern Ireland makes up the United Kingdom. Gordon Brown, who was born in Giffnock, Renfrewshire, Scotland and is 68 years old, has served the United Kingdom as its Chancellor of the Exchequer for 10 years from 1997 to 2007 and Prime Minister for 3 years from 2007 to 2010.

Gordon has experience and gravitas and although his Premiership was not a success, his finest moment came when he could, in effect, go back to being Chancellor during the Financial Crisis which convulsed the world in 2007 - 2008, when, in fact, he could be Chancellor of the World. Colleagues and civil servants who were otherwise in despair with him were dazzled by his response to the financial crisis which involved a £500 billion bail out to British banks and led to subsequently, broadly similar measures to be introduced by the United States and the European Union in response to the Financial Crisis.

If his actions in 2008 earned him the epithet : 'The Man who Saved the World' he now seems determined to do his best to earn the epithet : 'The Man who Saved the Union of the United Kingdom' which he thinks is threatened by the prospect of a No Deal Brexit from the European Union. He has said that he fears for the future of the Union and the growing nationalism which is pulling the United Kingdom apart, driving it towards an unprecedented  economic calamity and unleashing the most serious constitutional crisis since the 17th century when King was pitted against Parliament in the prelude to the English Civil War.

Writing in the Observer he accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of deploying a 'destructive, populist, nationalist ideology' and said that England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are 'devoid of a unifying purpose' capable of holding together amid the threat of crashing out of the EU.

His comments come amid mounting fears that a no-deal Brexit would hasten the end of Scotland’s membership of the United Kingdom and attendant retention of membership of the EU. Three-fifths of Scottish voters (60%), believe that support for Scottish independence would increase after a no-deal Brexit, according to new Focaldata polling for the anti-racist 'Hope Not Hate' campaign. Most, that is 57%, of  Conservative Party supporters said they regarded the end of the union as a price worth paying to achieve Brexit. 

Gordon accused Prime Minister Johnson of turning the Conservative and Unionist Party into the 'Conservative and Brexit party'. In his view 'Unionism appears to be sleepwalking into oblivion and the United Kingdom – once admired around the world for an understated but comfortably unifying Britishness that was inclusive, outward-looking, tolerant and ultimately pragmatic – now presents an ugly picture : of bitter division, intolerance and introversion so extreme that it has sacrificed common sense in favour of a dogmatic abandonment of its own best interests.'

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Brexit Britain is a country where old ladies like Hazel Jones are caught with chalk and in the act of writing protests on public walls and fences

Hazel Jones, who is 71, lives in Wakefield, Yorkshire and for the past three years since the EU Referendum has been making her own small protests against the prospect of Britain leaving the European Union. Then on August 2 when was spotted by a Ms Petts writing 'Brexit is based on lies. Reject it' on the perimeter wall of a school playing field and seen pocketing the chalk before striding off with her walking stick. When Ms Petts posted her video of Hazel on Facebook it was seen by one of Hazel's children who alerted her to its existence.

Since then she has confessed that she was the smartly dressed pensioner who was the culprit behind anti-Brexit slogans that have been written in chalk across the walls and fences of the West Yorkshire town and has said : "I was a little later than usual — that was my mistake" and : “Had I known I was being filmed I would have dressed up a bit more.”

She has also : “We all have to do our bit and I think it’s very important that people are made aware of the imminent catastrophe that we will be faced with if Brexit goes through. My generation has fouled up the prospects of younger people, so it’s my grandchildren that I’m doing it for.”

Hazel would have had an uphill battle of winning the people of Wakefield to her cause : in the Referendum 66.3% of them voted opted to leave the European Union, compared to 33.6% who, like her voted to stay in.

The Grandmother of four, said that she had spent the past three years chalking hundreds of protest slogans around the town while out and about. A lifelong of the Labour Party she said that she now voted for the Liberal Democrats because of the Party’s commitment to a second referendum.

Always using chalk she said that she did not see herself as a graffiti vandal because the messages washed off in the rain and added that she always used walls and fences in public spaces and steered clear of writing her anti-Brexit commentary on houses. “I usually tend to get up early and write when I’m on my way into town or going to the shops.” 

Now Hazel's chalking days are over. “I suppose the game is up now, I can’t keep on doing it any more.” She said that she now planned to adopt a more orthodox form of protest by petitioning her Member of Parliament. “My children are worried there may be reprisals but it really never occurred to me that it was an offence. It’s just chalk after all."

"If the government chooses to deliberately impose on its own population food shortages, job losses and disruption of medical supplies, they really need not fear old ladies pointing this out.”

Caught on video :

and reported in France :

Friday, 2 August 2019

Brexit obsessed Britain is a country and no country for old men living in unsafe, unsuitable and unhealthy housing

Earlier this summer a Government report by a cross-party group of MPs entitled : Inquiry into decent and accessible homes for older people' created hardly a stir in a Britain because the whole of the political machine and attendant political energy is devoted to the sole issue of Brexit.

It revealed that in 2019, in Britain, more than 2 million old men and women are still suffering from poor physical and mental ill health and even death as a consequence of living in substandard and non-accessible homes. In addition, this substandard housing costs the cash-strapped National Health Service £1.4bn every year because  cold, damp and other hazards cause old people to fall and exacerbate conditions such as heart disease, strokes, respiratory illnesses and arthritis as well as contributing to poor mental health.

Rachael Maskell MP and Chair of the group said : “Many older people are living in unsafe, unsuitable and unhealthy accommodation with little hope of being able to move somewhere better or improve their homes. Unless we work to find tangible solutions, older people and some of the most vulnerable in society will continue to live in substandard and unsuitable accommodation, the implications of which could be devastating to their physical, mental and social wellbeing.”

The report was produced after an in-depth inquiry over the last year into the link between health and housing, home ownership, supported housing, and the private rented sector and it predicted that the number of old men and women renting in the private sector often in unsafe, unsuitable and unhealthy accommodation would soar in the coming years. Currently households comprising people aged over 65 account for less than 10% of all those living in the private rented sector, but their numbers are reportedly rising fast and a recent survey by the National Landlords Association found that the numbers of retired people in Britain moving into the private rented sector had increased by 200,000 over the last four years.

Lady Jolly, a Liberal Democrat peer, said : “There are increasing numbers of older people living in the private rented sector who are struggling with rising rents, insecure tenancies and a lack of social or supported housing to move into. We have to consider whether this sector can be suitable for all older private tenants, especially those with low incomes developing care and support needs. We urgently need to reform security of tenure for all private tenants as this will play a key role in improving conditions and accessibility for growing numbers of older people living in privately rented homes.” 

The report recommended a 'National Housing Strategy' to help to improve housing standards for this and future generations of old people. Lady Greengross, a cross-bench peer said : “Many older people are living in unsafe and unhealthy accommodation, and have little hope of being able to move somewhere better. To tackle this, more older people should have the option of living in sheltered or supported housing. Unless we work on sustainable solutions, vulnerable older people will continue to live in substandard accommodation, the implications of which could be devastating to their physical, mental and social wellbeing.”

Andrew Selous MP, a member of the Health and Social Care Committee, said :
“Everyone should be able to live in a decent, healthy, accessible and adaptable home that allows them to receive the right health and care services at home. It is important that we improve the conditions of our current housing stock so that it works for the older people living in them.”

List of organisations, groups and individuals who gave their time and provided information to the Inquiry : 

* Age UK
* Anchor Hanover
* PPG for Healthy Homes and Buildings
* APPG for Housing and Care for Older People
* APPG for Housing in the North
* Associated Retirement Community
* Operators (ARCO)
* Bristol City Council’s Private Housing and Accessible Homes Team
* Building Research Establishment
* Care and Repair England
* Centre for Ageing Better
* Chameleon Technology
* Chartered Institute of Environmental Health
* Chartered Institute of Housing
* Clive Betts MP
* Elderly Accommodation Council
* EROSH Foundations
* Generation Rent
* Housing LIN
* Ian Mearns MP
* Independent Age
* Jim Cunningham MP
* Karbon Homes
* Karen Buck MP
* Kirklees Council
* Local Government Association
* Lord Best
* Melanie Onn MP
* Ms. Maggie Ellis
* National Landlords Association
* Northern Housing Consortium
* Older People’s Housing Champions Network
* Professor Christine Whitehead
* Residential Landlord Association
* Retirement Home Builders Group
* Royal College of Occupational Therapists
* Shelter
* The Almshouse Association
* The Printing Charity
* UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence
* Versus Arthrits

The chances of any reform being enacted in the interest of old people either living in or, in the future, avoiding living in substandard accommodation in Brexit obsessed Britain : ZERO

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Britain is a country where old men can still get assistance in crossing the road whether they need it or not

In Rochester in Kent on Sunday, having given a guided tour of the old city with its Castle and Cathedral, I waited by the traffic lights to cross the road to my car parked next to the railway station walking stick in hand,when a voice next to me said :

"Would you like to cross with us Sir ?"

At first I couldn't work out who the old man next to me was talking to. He was by several years older than me and with his wife and and, I supposed, daughter, pushing a baby in a pram. When I did figure that he was talking to me I said : "Thank you very much."

He then said, pointing with his finger and talking precisely and loudly : "There's the green walking man." As in : "It's safe for you to cross now."

As he bid me farewell he said : "All the best" as in "With all your problems you're going to need it."

I then knew that I had arrived. Officially recognised as one of Britain's Old Men, seventy-two years after my birth and in the Ancient City of Rochester on Sunday July 29th in the year of Our Lord 2019.

Friday, 26 July 2019

Britain is a country where Scotland's old men in Dumfries and Galloway look forward to living in 'compassionate intergenerational communities'

More and more old men and women growing old and living longer is a phenomenon across Britain but it is only 'Age Scotland' which has highlighted the need for more accessible, age-friendly homes which would let old people live independently as long as possible.

Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland with its ageing population and smaller-scale towns and villages wants to become a testing ground for intergenerational living allowing older people to play an active part in the community and in the belief that everyone involved could benefit, both young and old.

'Architecture and Design Scotland' has done a lot of work on how better intergenerational living might work and experts from across the country gathered at an event at the Easterbrook Hall in Dumfries recently to discuss the subject under the title of 'Intergenerational Housing and Age Friendly Places.' This location was chosen because the 'Dumfries and Galloway Care Campus Project,' backed by the Crichton Trust, is looking at ways to make the region 'a great place to grow old.'

The Trust's Chief Executive, Gwilym Gibbons said : "It is an important subject for all of us because clearly we are all ageing. Rural areas are ageing faster than other other areas. So here at the Crichton Trust we are trying to imagine what the world looks like in 15 to 20 years time with a significant proportion of the population being over 65. That means developing homes with the technology to help people in later life , while also seeing older people as a key asset in terms of experience and knowledge."

Steve Malone, Principal Architect with Architecture and Design Scotland, said the aim was to create places where people from all generations could live together and in particular town centres. He said : "In a nutshell, that's looking at the benefits and the barriers to town centres as places to live, in particular for the ageing demographic." This included studying housing types, their locations and also and with equal importance, the spaces between the buildings.

Amanda Britain, who chaired the event in Dumfries, said that getting it right could have huge benefits and the spaces between buildings and other facilities are all part of creating good places to grow old : "We have a growing number of older people and so we're all living longer. We have challenges with that, you know that this is not all bad. Older people contribute massively to the economy and to society." She made the point that one goal of intergenerational housing is to ensure that people have a good quality of life and retain social connections for as long as possible and studies had shown that both young and old benefited from greater interaction with one another.

"The reality of Dumfries and Galloway is important here because it means that we can test ideas and solutions and think of new ways of providing care and support for individuals that then can either be replicated or scaled into other environments, into cities. So it's about Dumfries and Galloway absolutely leading the way on what future care looks like, what living looks like in later life. That's about supporting people to stay cultural, economically and socially active as long as possible and as healthily as possible."

Unfortunately, a key ingredient of the success of the project is a healthy number of young
people and young people in Dumfies and Galloway are getting thinner and thinner on the ground. A survey of 10,000 young people carried out as part of the 'Year of Young People in 2018 found that 55% of those questioned said they intended to leave the region in the future.

Councillor Adam Wilson said the outcome of the 10,000 Voices consultation was a real concern and he believes they need to do more to make the region attractive for young people and highlighted recruitment problems in the public and private sectors – with both struggling to hire people. He said : “I think there is a warning shot because if a number of young people leave and do not come back we will see a number of crises across our region. We are going to have a huge demand on social care over the next decade and beyond. We have that warning shot today and we can start to take meaningful action to address that. If we do not keep our young people here, or attract young people to stay here and to grow their families and to work, we are going to face these difficulties. There are a lot of ways in which we can try to grow our economy but make sure that we deliver for our young people.” 

Monday, 22 July 2019

Britain is no country for cataract-afflicted, 'poor' old men, forced to wait for the restoration of their vision

The formation of cataracts in the eyes is a condition which mostly affects old men and women when their lenses develop cloudy patches which,over time, usually become bigger causing blurry, misty vision and eventually, if left untreated, blindness.

In the case of old people with cataracts which aren't too bad, stronger glasses and brighter reading lights may help for a while, but they get worse over time and eventually they need surgery to remove and replace the affected lens and surgery is the only treatment that's proven to be effective for cataracts.

They have entered a world where their eyesight is blurred or misty, they find lights too bright or glaring, find it harder to see in low light and one where colours look faded and if they wear glasses. They may feel their lenses are dirty and need cleaning, even when they don't. In addition to this, the chances are that they have been forced to give up driving their car.

Official figures produced by NHS Digital, have now revealed that those who live in England who cannot afford private medical insurance are forced to wait almost six months for operations on the National Health Service to remove cataracts. That's being condemned to live in a twilight world because they are unable to cough up the cost of £2,000 - £4,000 they would have to pay for each lens in 'Private Medicine.'

Old cataract patients in Herefordshire are the worse off, facing average delays of 168 days, those in Great Yarmouth and Waveney in Norfolk are the second worst in England at 163 days, while they now average 154 days in North Lincolnshire.

Helen Lee, Policy Manager at the Royal National Institute of Blind People said : “It is shocking that patients are waiting months and on too many occasions being denied cataract surgery. It often results in people losing their independence and becoming depressed as they can no longer do ordinary things like drive, go out at night and see bus numbers. People are more at risk of falls, which can lead to hip fractures and hospitalisation, which can be devastating.”

She accused many local National Health Service bodies of defying guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, which says that people with a cataract should be referred to have it removed promptly if it is giving them cloudy vision and affecting their quality of life. However, many cash-strapped CCGs are refusing to treat patients whose eyesight has not deteriorated 'enough' in their judgement.

One patient had a cataract removed in Leeds from his left eye on 9 July after waiting close to the NHS’s 18-week supposed 'maximum wait' for non-urgent care. He said : “It’s just been frustration after frustration for me, waiting for the surgery that I needed. I was on the point of going private because I was so frustrated at waiting so long to get it removed on the NHS.” He fell while waiting for the operation, injuring his hip. He also had to give up driving after his eyesight deteriorated so much that he posed a risk behind the wheel saying : "My car is my lifeline because I’m on my own.” 

The old men and women in England in the future who may develop cataracts can "take heart" and "worry not" because a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson has said :

“We expect all patients to have timely access to cataract surgery. Through our NHS long-term plan, we will boost the number of planned procedures and reduce waiting lists.”

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Britain is a country which now honours an old Mathematician it once vilified and destroyed called Alan Turing

It has been announced that Alan Turing, known for helping crack the Enigma code during the Second World War and pioneering the modern computer, has been chosen to appear on the new £50 banknote. Alan was selected from a list of almost 1,000 scientists in a decision that recognised both his role in fending off the threat of German U-boats in the Battle of the Atlantic and the impact of his postwar persecution for homosexuality.

While at the Intelligence Centre, Bletchley Park, Alan came up with ways to break German ciphers, including improvements to pre-Second World War Polish methods for finding the settings for German Enigma machines.

The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney said on Monday : “Alan Turing was an outstanding mathematician whose work has had an enormous impact on how we live today. As the father of computer science and artificial intelligence, as well as a war hero, Alan Turing’s contributions were far ranging and path breaking. Turing is a giant on whose shoulders so many now stand.”

Prosecuted for homosexual acts in 1952, Alan was convicted and given a choice between imprisonment and probation which was conditional on his agreement to undergo hormonal physical changes designed to reduce libido. He accepted the option of injections of what was then called stilboestrol, a synthetic oestrogen and this his feminization of his body was continued for the course of one year. It rendered him impotent and created breast tissue and thus fulfilled, in the literal sense, his prediction that "no doubt I shall emerge from it all a different man, but quite who I've not found out".

His criminal conviction destroyed part of his career with the removal of his security clearance which barred him from continuing with his cryptographic consultancy for the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), though he kept his academic job. An inquest concluded that Alan's death from cyanide poisoning two years later was suicide

John Leech, the former Liberal Democrat MP for Manchester Withington who helped lead the campaign for a 'Turing Law', said he was “very emotional” to see the new £50 note at the official unveiling and that it was a “massive acknowledgement of his mistreatment and unprecedented contribution to society. It is almost impossible to put into words the difference that Alan Turing made to society, but perhaps the most poignant example is that his work is estimated to have shortened the war by four years and saved up to 21 million lives. And yet the way he was treated afterwards remains a national embarrassment and an example of society at its absolute worst.”

Alan's work helped cement the concept of the algorithm, the set of instructions used to perform computations that are at the heart of our relationship with computers today. He was also a pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence: one of his best known achievements in this field is the 'Turing Test', which aims to measure whether a machine is 'intelligent'.

His words on the banknotes appear in the form of a quote he gave to the Times in 1949 :

Just six years ago, in 2013, Alan was given a 'posthumous royal pardon' by the Queen for his 1952 conviction for gross indecency.

The Imitation Game

Friday, 5 July 2019

Britain is a country where poor old men in dire need of social care can "Take Heart" that they have friends among rich old Lords in Government

Against a background in which a withering assessment by the 'Association of Directors of Adult Social Services' said in its annual survey that social care in England was adrift in a 'sea of inertia' caused by years of budget cuts and Brexit-related Whitehall policy paralysis and concluded that 'The system is not only failing financially, it is failing people.'

Earlier this year 'Age UK' estimated that more than 1.4 million older men and women aged 65 and over had unmet care needs. It said tightening eligibility for council-funded social care meant 627,000 people – nearly 900 a day – had been refused social care since March 2017.

Adass called for urgent cross-party agreement to tackle what it called the most pressing domestic issue of our time.  Its President, Julie Ogley said : “Our message from this survey to the new Prime Minister, whoever this may be, is very clear : make social care an immediate priority.” 

Now the 'Lords Economic Affairs Committee' said this would restore access and quality of social care services in England to pre-austerity levels and relieve unsustainable pressure on unpaid family carers. A further £7bn a year should be spent to extend NHS-style free personal care to all by 2025, to be paid for out of general taxation.

The Chair of the cross-party committee, the 64 year old Lord Forsyth, said it was time for government to stop “faffing around” and properly fund a system that was riddled with unfairness and left people enduring real suffering. “Our recommendations will cost money, but social care should be a public spending priority.” He said the fairest and most efficient way to meet the £15bn cost was through taxation : “I’m a Thatcherite Tory: I support reducing tax and controlling public expenditure. But this is the minimum requirement to provide a decent standard of care in our country.”

The Committee picked up on the 1.4m older people were denied the care they needed as a result of cuts, means tests and rationing, while others received extremely basic 'clean and feed' levels of care. Many as a result were housebound and unable to fulfil everyday tasks like washing or going to the toilet. Mindful of old men and women in the future, the fact that by 2040 a quarter of Britain's  population will be over 65 and there will be thousands more working age adults with severe disabilities, the Committee said that social care funding reform was an urgent priority.

The Committee questioned the point of publishing yet another report. The good, Lord Forsythe said : “Let’s not have a green paper. If you have to, have a white paper, and write a cheque to the local authorities. Let’s stop faffing around and get on and do it.

The Committee’s members include :  former Tory Chancellor, 77 year old Lord Lamont; former Treasury permanent secretary 75 year old Lord Burns and ex-cabinet secretary, 74 year old Lord Turnbull.

Old men and women in Scotland fare better than their English counterparts : Free personal care was introduced for over-65’s in Scotland in 2002, giving recipients help with daily tasks such as bathing, dressing, personal hygiene, going to the toilet, and meal preparation. Numbers of people receiving care doubled as a result, but it ultimately saved taxpayers’ money by preventing costly hospital admissions.

Without urgent action to address social care funding, much of the burden of caring for vulnerable individuals would continue to fall on family and friends. Most unpaid carers were women, the report said, with 63% of female carers aged between 50 and 64 caring for at least 50 hours a week.

The good Lord Forsythe said : “Our recommendations will cost money, but social care should be a public spending priority. Fixing underfunding is not difficult.”

Needless to say, a Government Health and Social Care spokesperson said : “We have given local authorities access to up to £3.9bn more dedicated funding for adult social care this year, and a further £410m is available for adults and children’s services. We will set out our plans to reform the social care system at the earliest opportunity to ensure it is sustainable for the future

The Committee’s report comes amid growing concern at the state of adult social care after a decade of austerity. The outgoing Conservative Chair of the Local Government Association, the young Lord Porter, recently warned that vulnerable people would die as a result of the continuing failure to properly fund social care.

Monday, 1 July 2019

Britain is still a country and Glastonbury a Rock Festival for an old naturalist and broadcaster called David Attenborough

A huge roar greeted the surprise appearance of the 93 year old David Attenborough at the Glastonbury Rock Festival yesterday. He took to the stage in the afternoon to the sound of whale noises being played out on the speakers. When he thanked the crowd for reducing plastic waste at the festival he said : "This great festival has gone plastic free. That is more than a million bottle of water that have not been drunk by you in plastic. Thank you! Thank you!'

The old broadcaster and naturalist said his series Blue Planet 2, which detailed the effect of plastics on the ocean, had had an extraordinary effect. “The ocean covers two-thirds of this planet of ours … the land only covers one third of the globe. There are seven great continents on which we human beings live. Each of them has its own marvellous creatures – birds and mammals, animals of all kinds. Each of them has its own glory, each of them has its own problems.”

He told the audience the sea creature noises were from Blue Planet 2. “There was one sequence that everyone seems to remember, that showed what plastic has done to the creatures in the ocean. It has an extraordinary effect.”

Emily Eavis the festival co-organiser tweeted : 'David Attenborough live on the Pyramid. What a moment.'

Adrian Lake from Henley, said his appearance had brought a tear to his eyes : “He’s such an iconic figure, David Attenborough is the voice of the world’s creatures and we need to join him in being that voice also.”

Ian Simmons said : “He’s just a legend. It’s just amazing to see him and all the young people taking notice of him. The way Glastonbury has done the plastic-free thing has been amazing. When you look around you hardly see any plastic, which is what we have to do, obviously.”

Georgia Spence said : “My friends weren’t going to come to the Pyramid stage, but when they heard Attenborough was speaking, they changed their minds. He’s looking out for the people of the future.” 

David :