Celebrating older people: Silver Sunday
Today is Silver Sunday, a day to celebrate older people and reflect on the valuable role they play in our communities. This year, that message is even more important.
All of us love and care for our older relatives, just as they do us, and we benefit from their stories, wisdom and experiences.
I know the last six months have been very difficult for everyone in society, but there is no doubt the toll on older people has been particularly hard. Living through an extended period unable to spend time with friends and loved ones has been particularly challenging. We understand the significant impact this can have on older people, who can be more susceptible to the virus.
Hearing stories of people missing their grandchildren, not being able to visit a family member in hospital, or children not able to hold the hand of beloved parent in a care home are heart-breaking. This is an awful virus that is restricting us in our lives more than any of us could ever have imagined, and it is hugely difficult for anyone to see and hear of the distress that relatives and families are facing.
I therefore hugely appreciate the life-saving sacrifices that all the older people in Scotland have made to keep themselves and each other safe throughout the ongoing pandemic.
Ministers in the Scottish Government are all aware of this, and it is complex trying to keep people safe from the risks of harm from this terrible virus. The government try to find as good a balance as possible between our responsibility to protect lives and the sincere recognition of the positive benefits of connecting with friends and family.
I know the most recent restrictions will make it harder for people as it feels like a backwards step. But the need to keep people safe remains – along with the vital need to support people through this time. That is why we put in place a range of support measures to make life easier where we can.
We funded Age Scotland’s national telephone helpline, which provides support to older people on a range of issues including advice and friendship. We worked with supermarkets to allocate delivery slots, and provided an additional £1.6 million of funding to organisations that have directly supported older people impacted by the pandemic.
Now more than ever we also understand the importance of staying connected. That’s why we are investing £43 million in our Connecting Scotland programme, which provides an internet device as well as data and technical support to get people online. This programme started early in the pandemic to get 9,000 people who were considered at clinically high risk – many of whom were older people – online and able to access services and support and connect with friends and family.
We know more people being at home can lead to higher fuel bills, so as well as supporting over 100 organisations helping those struggling with their energy costs, we have committed an additional £55 million over the next five years to help boost energy efficiency schemes and make homes warmer and cheaper to heat.
For those who need it, our award winning Home Energy Scotland service continues to provide a range of free impartial advice for anyone concerned about paying their energy bills.
We also have a range of support in place through our Warmer Homes Scotland scheme. We will continue to work closely with our stakeholders, such as the Older People’s Strategic Action Forum, to make sure we are aware of the current issues that are key to ensuring people are healthy, happy and secure in older age.
Although it doesn’t feel like it just now, this pandemic will pass. It won’t last forever and one day, hopefully soon, we will be looking back on it, and not living through it.
The last six months has shown what we can achieve when we pull together. So let today be a reminder to us to keep at it, keep going, and keep looking out for each other.
Tags: older people