The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on older people has demonstrated that the UK does not have a set of policies that facilitate healthy ageing. Therefore, the Pandemic presents an opportunity to rethink our approach to ageing. Specifically, there is the chance to put in place policies which break the link between ageing, frailty, and the need for care. The right policies would lead to cultural, attitudinal, and behavioural changes that will enable people to live longer, healthier and more productive lives whilst increasing the UK’s resilience to future pandemics.
COVID-19 has ‘created’ this opportunity to rethink ageing because it has –
1. Focused attention on older people showing both the contribution they can make to society (e.g., Captain Tom) and their vulnerability (most of those who have died have been older people).
2. Increased the recognition of the importance of exercise to healthy ageing and the risk of sedentarism.
3. Created an environment where politicians are more likely to follow scientific advice and a desire to develop evidence-based policy.
In reflecting on this opportunity readers might want to ask themselves – are they looking forward to old age? If not, why not and what can be done to improve the lives of the next generation of older people? It would be a fitting legacy to the thousands of older people who have died prematurely because of the Pandemic if as a result policies were developed to help future generations to age better. If following COVID-19 now is not the time to radically change our approach to ageing one wonders when it will be?
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