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

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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 Gamehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlsFwBhiY-M

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 : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ru5JYf7X5Ck&t_4m25s