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Your questions answered

Our expert panel, hosted by Cllr John Spence, Chair of the Essex Health and Wellbeing Board did a fantastic job of answering your many questions at the March Essex Assembly, and provided some insight into how the many and changing needs of our ageing population can be addressed to support citizens in relation to employment expectations, social care, active communities and education to enjoy independent, healthy, safer lives.

The panel, including; George McNamara, Director of Policy and Influencing, Independent Age; Daniel Singleton, National Executive Director, FaithAction; David Sollis, Chief Executive, Healthwatch Essex; Mike Gogarty, Director Public Health Wellbeing and Communities Essex County Council; and Professor Rachel Cooper OBE, President of the Design Research Society, have kindly taken the time to respond to all the questions we received via text from the audience during the 5 March event.

David Sollis, Chief Executive, Healthwatch Essex is first to answer your questions...

How can we support individuals to take greater responsibility for their health care and to exercise informed choices?

"Healthwatch Essex is working with various partners on understanding behavioural change and how this can develop a strong self-care approach to living in later years. The aim is to encourage the majority of Essex residents to take it upon themselves to stay well, keep well and live well. As organisations we can ensure solid funding is available if required, high quality information is provided and can deliver signposting and investment in prevention.  

How can digital public services enable us to support older people?

"There is a balance between encouraging digital buy-in across public services and ensuring people receive genuine support and help rather than just an app! I think digital can help but it can also be a barrier. I believe the Digital Boomers project will give us some genuine insight into the conversation we will need to have over the next 7-14 years."

Daniel Singleton, National Executive Director, FaithAction, responds to your questions on creating collaborative cultures...

How can the public sector and voluntary organisations work together to support older people to remain independent for longer? how can public services and community organisations work together to connect older people to their communities?

  • Beware of jargon – I was struck again as we were speaking how much our language makes a barrier to connection and aiding those we all work for
  • Find where connections are working and get behind them – see where people are connecting, often in faith locations, and get services in there. We are learning a lot from ‘nudge’ theory (more jargon apologies) – but it is the simply steps and connections we need to start with
  • We often can’t get services interacting – but we should be able to get information connected up – see ‘community connect’ we need trusted avenues to information and knowledge
  • Celebration – helps us recognise the assets that we can use more of.

How can we create an age-friendly employment culture within our own organisations?

  • Celebration  - (as above) rather than base a response on an equalities footing – lets recognise what older people are contributing then we can be realistic and generous in our culture
  • For those entering the work place again there is some value in  raising awareness on how the organisation works
  • For fun watch the ‘Intern’ with Robert DeNiro – film about making use of an older person in a new role.

Cllr John Spence Chair of the Essex Health and Wellbeing Board replies to your question on whole system working ...

We must remove the barriers to collaboration at a local and national level and incentivise joined up working. How can we do this in a simple way moving forward?

"Surely the greatest incentive is the recognition that through collaboration and teamwork (a whole system approach) we achieve best outcomes, maximise efficiencies, eliminate duplications and so on. It is hard to see any financial incentive trumping that.

"This implies building strong relationships and getting rid of the grit that becomes a disincentive. We need to have mutual recognition of, and respect for, each partners' priorities so that we think less about achieving one outcome at the expense of another and more about how we achieve both."

You asked Dr Mike Gogarty, Director Public Health Wellbeing and Communities Essex County Council, how we can prevent demand...

How can we help older people to maintain a good level of health in later life?

"Older people are at risk of a range of clinical and socio economic issues that might negatively impact on their wellbeing. Increasing age is the biggest risk for most health conditions and the effectiveness and indeed cost effectiveness of seeking and treating is often highest in older people. Essex uniquely therefore offers and funds health checks for people up to age 84 as treatment of high blood pressure, irregular pulse and high cholesterol is important in these people in preventing heart attacks and strokes

"While certainly not confined to this group, many older people are lonely and we are determined to identify these people working with primary care and the wider community and to be able to understand and help them to get the company that they want. Additionally many older people may be depressed and this is often poorly recognised. We need to continue to work with social and health colleagues to better identify and manage this condition in older people including those who have a caring role.

"While some older people are financially sound there are others who have little financial provision as they get older. We need to work with a range of partners to identify and support those in financial need ensuring they have access to the full range of benefits they are entitled to. We also need to ensure their homes are safe and warm.

"We need to try and help older people to stay active and the Sport England LDP pilot sees this as a key objective. We will work as a national lead in this to learn how best to enable older people to be more physically active, often linked with increased opportunities to be socially engaged.

"We need to help people retain and regain independence as they get older. One key tool is reablement which needs to be the default intervention for the vast majority of older people who have lost their independence.

Looking at all the programmes and services available for older people in Essex, why is Basildon excluded?

"I am not aware that Basildon is excluded from any programmes.  Specifically it is one of four priority areas within the ECC Place and Public Health Locality approach. It is one of only three districts that will benefit directly from the Sport England LDP pilot. It is the second area in Essex in which we have sought to work with partners to develop a mental health hub."