Report: Millions in Britain at risk of poor-quality later life
A landmark report on the state of ageing in Britain warned that a significant proportion of people are at risk of spending later life in poverty, ill-health and hardship.
Britain is undergoing a radical demographic shift, with the number of people aged 65 and over set to grow by more than 40 percent in two decades, reaching more than 17 million by 2036, theguardian.com reported.
The number of households where the oldest person is 85 or over is increasing faster than any other age group.
But although we are living longer than ever before, the report warns that millions risk missing out on a good later life due to increasing pressure on health and care services, local authorities, the voluntary sector and government finances.
“Ageing is inevitable but how we age is not. Our current rates of chronic illness, mental health conditions, disability and frailty could be greatly reduced if we tackled the structural, economic and social drivers of poor health earlier,” said Dr. Anna Dixon, the chief executive at Centre for Ageing Better.
“Our extra years of life are a gift that we should all be able to enjoy and yet — as this report shows — increasing numbers of us are at risk of missing out,” she added.
The Center for Ageing Better’s report, ‘The State of Ageing in 2019’, warns that today’s least well-off over-50s face far greater challenges than wealthier peers and are likely to die younger, become sicker earlier and fall out of work due to ill-health.
The research brings together publicly available data sources to reveal vast differences in how people experience ageing depending on factors such as where they live, how much money they have or what sex or ethnicity they are.
While people aged 65 can expect to live just half of the remainder of their life without disability, those in less affluent parts of the country will die earlier and be sicker for longer. Ill-health is a major cause of people falling out of work prematurely and can affect quality of life and access to services such as healthcare.
The poorest people are three times more likely than the wealthiest to retire early because of ill-health: 39 percent of men and 31 percent of women compared with six percent of both sexes in the highest wealth quintile.
Although we are living far longer, a significant and increasing proportion of people are managing multiple health conditions and mobility problems from mid-life onwards, the report said.
Of people aged 50 to 64, 23 percent have three or more long-term health conditions.
Meanwhile, the poorest men in society aged over 50 are three times more likely than the wealthiest to have chronic heart disease, two times more likely to have type 2 diabetes, and two times more likely to have arthritis.
The report reveals that pensioner poverty is rising for the first time since 2010 and is more prevalent for women and black, Asian and minority ethnic groups.
At least 1.3 million over-55s live in homes hazardous to their health and one in four 50- to 64 year-olds have three or more chronic health conditions.
The Center for Ageing Better is calling on the government, businesses and charities to “rethink their approach and avoid storing up problems for the future”.
“This report is a wakeup call for us all — many people in their 50s and 60s now, particularly those who are less well-off, simply won’t get the quality of later life that they expect or deserve,” Dixon said.
“We must act now to add life to our years; to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to make the most of a longer life. Without radical action today to help people age well, we are storing up problems for the future and leaving millions at risk of poverty and poor health in later life.”
China lawmakers urge freeing up family planning as birth rates plunge
Delegates to China’s parliament are urging the overhaul or even scrapping of controversial family planning rules and say radical steps are needed to ‘liberate fertility’ and reverse a decline in births and a rapidly shrinking workforce.
With its population ageing as a result of longer lifespans and a dwindling number of children, the world’s most populous nation decided in 2016 to allow all couples to have a second child, relaxing a tough one-child policy in place since 1978, Reuters wrote.
But birth rates plummeted for the second consecutive year last year. Policymakers now fret about the impact a long-term decline in births will have on the economy and its strained health and social services.
In proposals submitted at the National People’s Congress, delegates from across the country urged leaders to improve healthcare and maternity benefits, offer tax breaks and provide more free public education.
Some went further, saying China should forget about trying to control births and even remove all references to family planning from the constitution.
“Continued control over fertility will inevitably defeat the purpose and make it even harder to resolve ingrained population problems,” Guangdong province delegate, Li Bingji, said in a proposal that described population as China’s number-one priority for the next four decades.
The number of live births per 1,000 people fell to 10.94 in 2018, official data showed, less than a third of the 1949 level. Liaoning in the northeast, which has seen its population decline in recent years, has a birth rate of 6.49 per thousand.
The estimated number of children each Chinese mother will have in their lifetime is 1.6, down from 5.18 in 1970. The global average is 2.45.
Think tanks expect China’s population to peak at 1.4 billion in 2029 and then begin an ‘unstoppable’ decline that could reduce the workforce by as much as 200 million by 2050.
They also forecast that over-60s will account for 25 percent of the population by 2035, up from 17.3 percent in 2017. More than a third of China’s population could be over 60 by the middle of the century.
According to Steven Mosher, the president of the US-based Population Research Institute, China is entering a ‘low-birthrate recession’.
“China has set up a deadly demographic trap for itself, condemning itself to low or no growth for years to come, regardless of how many babies they can, using persuasion or compulsion, get young women to bear,” he said.
Though proposals submitted by ordinary delegates have no legal status, they have symbolic significance and allow the discussion of matters not ordinarily aired in public. In theory, they will also be considered by policymaking committees.
By Tuesday, the phrase ‘comprehensive liberation of fertility’ had appeared in five proposals submitted to parliament, suggesting a groundswell of opinion in favor of a radical overhaul of family planning rules.
Some delegates, including Xiong Sidong of Jiangsu Province, even urged the state to remove ‘family planning’ from the constitution.
“To drop the requirement that all couples plan their births from the constitution would be a major shift in thinking, as the planning of human production nationwide has, since the mid-1970s, been deemed as vital to China’s modernization as the planning of material production,” said Susan Greenhalgh, research professor at Harvard University, who has studied the one-child policy.
The original restrictions were aimed at curbing runaway population growth, and required the establishment of family planning offices in every village across the country.
The government said the program allowed the country to limit population growth by around 400 million and thereby tackle entrenched poverty.
Researchers warn of a demographic time bomb, with a dwindling workforce unable to pay the healthcare bills of the elderly, but after four decades, the policy adjustments could prove too little too late.
“Virtually no country in the world has been able to coax birth rates up for a significant period of time after childbearing rates have dropped with modernization,” said Greenhalgh.
Assaults on north Wales NHS mental health staff halved in five years
Attacks by mental health patients on National Health Service (NHS) staff at Wales’ largest health board halved in five years.
Assaults on Betsi Cadwaladr staff fell from 559 in 2013-14 to 278 in 2017-18, BBC wrote.
It attributed the fall to a team of specialist nurses who train carers and frontline staff in ways to avoid confrontation and improve care.
Ward manager, Matt Jarvis, who was punched in the head by an ‘acutely psychotic’ patient, said restraining people created distrust of staff.
Instead, people on the wards will attempt to talk down agitated patients or even distract them.
They are trained in how to restrain people, which is used if other efforts have failed.
Jarvis, who works on a psychiatric intensive care ward, said, “We need to make sure we’re trying to understand the patient first.
“When people are admitted to a mental health unit, they may be afraid, they may be scared.”
Staff try to create a rapport with patients and earn their trust, as well as giving them space if needed, in a bid to avoid a situation where physical restraint is needed.
After a large fall in assaults in 2014-15, the figure dropped further from 331 in 2016-17 to 278 in 2017-18.
A health board spokesman said only “a small number of NHS providers in the UK” employ such a team on a full-time basis.
The four-strong team give staff violence and aggression prevention training which aims to equip them to recognize triggers in patients and be able to calm them down.
Similar assaults on staff rose by 25 percent across the UK in the four years to 2017, although England accounted for most of the rise.
Mental health nurse Gareth Owen, who leads team with colleague Lisa Powell, said, “The better we can understand and meet our patients’ needs the better their outcomes will be.
“We’re determined to build on the progress we’ve made in recent years because one assault on a member of our staff is one too many.”
Out of the mountains, out of poverty
Ranagul Karman and her family are settling into their new home in Kashgar in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in northwest China.
“With central heating, gas, running water, Internet and cable TV, we no longer need to worry about things that troubled us in the past,” Karman said, xinhuanet.com reported.
They have moved to a relocation village in Antong County, 94 kilometers away from their old neighborhood — Kosrap County in Kizilsu Kirghiz Autonomous Prefecture.
This village, one of many relocation sites in Xinjiang, was built by the local government to shelter those who moved from poverty-stricken areas in the mountains, seeking a better life.
The new Karman family home has indoor plumbing, much more hygienic than the dry latrine the family used in Kosrap where flies buzzed everywhere and people had to take water from the river.
When it rained the roof would leak, and the house was generally dilapidated, but the thing that concerned Karman most was her children’s education. In mountainous areas like Kosrap, schools struggle to recruit teachers, and the standard of education is low.
“The children were always cold at school, especially in winter,” Karman said.
“This new village is much more comfortable since there’s floor heating both at home and in school.”
One of Karman’s daughters now studies at a boarding school in the town and comes home at the weekend. Her two younger children go to the primary school near their home.
“They all have dreams now, either to be a soldier or a doctor,” Karman said.
“I’ve never heard them say things like this before.”
“Their horizons have become broader as they came into contact with more people, beyond the mountains.”
It’s not just the children who have shifted their perspectives. Karman and her husband Mahrup Murapa also have new jobs.
Karman runs a store while Murapa works as a full-time plumber and part-time delivery driver. They have made more than ¥60,000 ($9,000) since they moved in August 2018.
They have used the money to furnish their home, filling it with household electrical appliances including a television, a water heater and a refrigerator.
Karman and her family are not an exceptional case. Last August, 1,149 families in Kosrap County began to move out of their old houses in the deep mountains, fleeing poverty.
“From May to July every year, some houses would be submerged by floods washing through the village,” Mahrup Murapa said.
Natural disasters including floods and mudslides occurred frequently, damaging the roads that link Kosrap with the outside world. As a result, many villagers had never left the mountains.
As a result, villagers could not get enough food or clothing, not to mention compulsory education, basic medical care and proper housing, according to Ahematjan Kerim, the head of Kosrap County.
The only way out of poverty for these people is relocation, and building new homes for them is a key approach for local governments to relieve poverty.
In Karman’s village, for example, the local government has built all sorts of infrastructure, including clinics, primary schools, kindergartens and activity centers.
The village has not just tap water and electricity, but also convenient transportation. For the next five years, each villager can get subsidies of ¥1,500 per month.
But to remove the potential of people slipping back into poverty, relocation and subsidies is not enough. They need jobs to replace income previously made mainly from herding.
The local government has therefore built factories to employ the herders. These factories started recruiting staff after the Chinese New Year in early February this year.
The government also offers occupational training to the villagers, ensuring the young people have skills to help them find jobs.
Each family in the village gets from the government a 0.33-hectare ration field and a forage base more than twice that size. And they can still access the meadow in the Kunlun Mountains.
By building relocation sites, promoting industrial development and providing living allowances for impoverished households, Xinjiang has lifted 537,000 people out of poverty in 2018, bringing down poverty in the region to 6.51 percent.
Next year will be critical for China’s ‘war on poverty’ as the country has decided to eradicate poverty by 2020, which is also the target year for China to become a moderately prosperous society in all respects.
In 2019, Xinjiang will make every effort to lift another 606,100 people in 12 counties and 976 villages out of poverty, supporting the country’s goal of reducing rural poor population by over 10 million this year.
The region will continue building relocation sites and infrastructure and boosting employment. It will also better manage the poverty alleviation funds, making sure that every penny of funds and all poverty alleviation projects actually benefit impoverished households in Xinjiang.
Hopefully, the worries that once plagued Karman and her family will be nothing but a memory for everyone in Xinjiang by the end of this year.
Between eight percent and 10 percent of children at preschool ages suffer from ADHD in Iran, said an Iranian neurologist, Meysam Najafzadeh, on Wednesday, IRNA reported.