Angus has appointed its first Older People’s Champion.
Forfar councillor Lynne Devine is to take up the role as the Older People’s Champion in Angus with a pledge to help the area’s senior citizens emerge from the “torture” of the pandemic.
The move followed the unanimous backing of a full council meeting for a motion put forward by Kirriemuir SNP councillor Julie Bell.
Councillor Bell said: “With a growing older population, it is vital that local decision-making meets the needs of older people and that councillors have a better understanding of these.
“Local authorities, health and social care partnerships and the third sector are responsible for providing and supporting so many services upon which older people rely, such as public transport, social care provision, housing, planning and communities.
“As many local authority budgets are under pressure, older people need someone specifically tasked with standing up for their interests and finding out what they need from local decision-makers.”
National Records of Scotland data indicates the country’s over-75 population is set to increase by 12% by 2023, rising to 30.3% by 2028.
Ms Bell added: “We know people are living longer in Angus, which is great.
“But we also know people are living longer with a wider range of complex health conditions.
“We have an equalities champion and a young people’s champion which are both important roles.
“I believe it’s time to place additional emphasis on our elders, who have contributed to and enhanced our society over their entire lives.”
SOPA chairwoman Diana Findley and Graham Galloway of Kirrie Connections dementia hub both spoke to the meeting and welcomed the development.
Cllr Devine, the leader of the council’s SNP group, said: “I very much look forward working along with the Provost as the Veterans’ Champion and Cllr Lawrie as Young Persons’ Champion as intergenerational work to be a great way to foster respect on both sides.
“As restrictions applied to the pandemic begin to lift it is important that we acknowledge the impact that this prolonged global crisis has had on our older family members, friends and neighbours.
Many people lost their partners during this time and have had to grieve alone.
Angus Older People’s Champion Lynne Devine
“It has been torture for so many of them, as organisations they belonged to and depended upon closed.
“Relatives could not visit to give succour or support and only a few older people were able to go online.
“Many people lost their partners during this time and have had to grieve alone,” she said.
“The isolation, which was well known about before Covid-19, was exacerbated hugely in the last year.
“This is an excellent time to agree to Age Scotland and SOPA’s campaign to have an Older People’s Champion.”
She said: “I intend to meet with older people, wherever they are, to hear their concerns and then bring those views back to the council, so that we can give them full consideration when formulating policy.”
“In Angus, we already have a good network of support organisations and befriending groups for older people,” she said.
“I am keen to promote active lifestyles for our older people wherever possible and some of our organisations provide tailored physical activities for that very purpose.
“We want all our people not just to be living longer, but to be enjoying healthier lives too so they can play an active role in our communities for a very long time.”
Ms Devine is also determined to focus on financial wellbeing and advice.
The pandemic has brought an increase in online and phone scams, many targeting the elderly.
“I will be in contact with champions in other local authority areas to ensure Angus is learning and sharing best practice so our older people are fully aware of their entitlements and that their voices are heard at a national level.”