‘My late father is my guide to help our elderly in harsh winters’ | Daily News Byte

‘My late father is my guide to help our elderly in harsh winters’

 | Daily News Byte

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The chief executive of Age UK is “in tears” two months into his new role after hearing about the “tough challenges and impossible choices” faced by older people.

Paul Farmer, formerly chief executive of Mind, a mental health charity, said there was “huge crossover” between the roles in terms of their focus on older people’s anxiety, loneliness and isolation.

After touring the UK to meet front-line workers and speak to people supported by Age UK, Mr Farmer warned that “the assumption that later life will always be great” and that pensioners are a “smarter generation” needed to be dismantled.

He added that many older people are living in the “long shadow of Covid”, with their physical and mental health severely affected.

His comments came as the cost of living crisis forced older people to make “impossible choices” about heating, eating, paying for care and medical prescriptions, socializing and traveling.

Speaking to the Telegraph in his first interview since taking up the post, Mr Farmer revealed that his experience caring for his dying father had become a “guide” to how he approached the role.

Turned to tears at the elder’s troubles

“Well, I’m already in tears at this job,” he said. “Sometimes out of frustration as much as anything else. I think we’re not going to be able to do our jobs properly if we don’t understand what people are feeling and what people are feeling.

“I’m not directly in their shoes, but I have some sense of what it’s like. I took care of my father since he died a year or so ago. I have some understanding of what good and bad care looks like from a very personal point of view.

“And that and other people – they become your mentors, don’t they? So you think about that. You think about the people that you’re talking to and supporting, that we’re supporting collectively. Being, and then you also connect it to the personal because, to me, that’s how you do it.

Mr Farmer recalled a visit to a local Age UK center which left him thinking about “a cumulative set of stories that I heard in such rapid succession where you think, ‘This is really, really difficult for people in different ways.'”

He added that the charity’s telephone befriending service, made up of 4,000 volunteers, who support 4,000 people with half-hour telephone calls, was “another thing that moved me to tears”.

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