Older People’s Commissioner

Heléna Herklots CBE

Working to make Wales the best place in the world to grow older

It was a pleasure to visit the Caerphilly 50+ Forum in January, to meet and speak with members about my priorities as Commissioner and the development of my work programme, and to hear from them about how we can make Wales the best place in the world to grow older.

The discussions I had during the meeting were very helpful and it is clear that members are committed to using their wealth of knowledge and experience to not only ensure that older people have a strong voice but also to influence policy and practice, both locally and nationally, to improve older people’s lives.

Since I took up the post last year, I have travelled the length and breadth of Wales, meeting with older people, groups, forums and stakeholders to hear about their experiences of growing older, the issues that affect their lives and the changes and improvements they want to see.

This engagement helped me to identify three key long-term priorities for Wales, against which I will deliver a wide range of work during the next three years.

The first priority is ensuring that everyone can age well. This is something that everyone in Wales should be entitled to do, but many people find themselves unable to do the things that matter to them as they get older. Older people should be seen as a vital part of society and should have more opportunities to participate in and contribute to our economy and our communities.

I want Wales to be a nation of age-friendly communities, where older people feel valued, included and respected, can get out and about and afford to do the things they want to do. I want older people to be able to lead healthy and active lives, to be well informed and have their voices heard.

The second priority is ending ageism and discrimination based on age, which is still very prevalent within society. Ageism underpins many of the issues currently faced by older people and results in negative stereotypes, older people being treated unfairly and their rights not being respected and upheld. Ageism can also negatively influence the decisions made by society, meaning that the services, facilities and opportunities that people need to help them to age well can be inadequate and discriminate against older people.

Tackling ageism and age discrimination is therefore essential to ensure that older people have equality, are treated with dignity and respect, and that the contribution they make to society is both recognised and celebrated.

The third priority is stopping the abuse of older people in Wales, an issue that affects thousands of older people every year. Whilst there is a growing understanding of the scale and nature of abuse and crimes against older people, there is still a lack of meaningful data about the levels of abuse in Wales, and awareness of these issues is still far too low across our public services and society in general.

I want to stop this abuse by increasing awareness across society, improving preventative actions across public bodies and securing access to justice for those who are, or at risk of, being abused and help them to feel safe.

There was an outstanding response to the consultation on my work programme, with over 250 older people and stakeholders sharing their ideas about the work I should focus on under the three priorities over the next three years. I am currently using the responses to shape my work programme, which will be published in April alongside my strategic plan.

The work I deliver will have a particular focus on improving the quality of life of the most vulnerable older people, those whose voices

often go unheard, and those at risk of harm, and will also highlight the significant contribution that older people make to their communities and to society.

As Commissioner, I will highlight and promote the good practice that is already underway in many parts of Wales that is making a positive difference to people’s lives but will also scrutinise the work of government, public bodies and public services and hold them to account when necessary.

And as Commissioner, I am looking forward to beginning to deliver my work programme in April – working with a wide range of partners, including older people and forums throughout Wales – so I can play my part in improving older people’s lives and helping to make Wales the best place in the world to grow older.