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Sociable care – the best people to look after the over 80’s are the over 60’s

Think about what social care actually means – we are not talking about nursing or treating the seriously ill, that is always a job for the professionals.

Care is pretty straightforward; it involves the kind of kindnesses and consideration that you would give your relatives: a bit of washing-up, changing beds, putting food on a tray and serving it, calling in a leaking tap or a flickering light, plumping up the pillows – and most importantly, being there. However, what about the social in social care? Seniors living in their own homes are, in the vast majority of cases, just getting old, slowing down, dealing with the aches and pains and gradual incapacities that will get to all of us – those lucky enough to get that far!

Keeping them going is about much more than those daily practicalities, it is about keeping people alive in their minds; it is the conversation, the interaction with someone who understands, it has about shared experiences and interests, belonging in this strange new world. That is when someone who remembers Wilfred Pickles, Harold Wilson or Mrs Mills and her rinky-tink piano, even vaguely, can be worth a week of tickbox attention from a younger stranger, however professional they may be.

Wouldn’t it be an idea to begin recruiting care support workers from the generation below? Maybe not even full time, but from the area, part of the same background?

There are approximately three times as many in the 55 – 80 age group, then in the over 80s. Working part-time, two or three days a week they could cover the entire non-clinical social care needs of an area, and do it for a fraction of the cost of full-time workers.

Just say it worked; who benefits?

The elderly get to feel like they still belong in the world they grew up in, and happy, engaged people stay fitter and reduce strain on the NHS. By developing relationships with people they identify with and like, they become liberated from the curse of loneliness.

The generation below them has jobs, albeit ones that don’t intrude too much on their lives but give a boost to their income and the chance to say “I am working for …” rather than “Nothing much” when asked what they are up to just now. Along with the self -respect that provides, they still have time to enjoy the hobbies and activities they expect at their time of life.

Local councils find they have a self-sustaining pool of highly economical, social care support staff, a diminishing need for costly agency workers, and the opportunity to focus on the provision of critical care for those in greatest need.

Moreover, the Government gets a double whammy: the possibility of collecting a tax. However small from a group of people who would otherwise be a cost to the state; and in many cases be able to persuade this group to defer taking their state pension – a deal that can ultimately benefit a pensioner by around £10,000!

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