A Fairer Scotland for Older People: framework for action

This framework has been developed to challenge the inequalities older people face as they age and to celebrate older people in Scotland.

This Framework

Knowledge is power and we want power over our lives.

We have listened to the voices and experiences of older people in the Older People’s Strategic Action Forum, a Scottish Government stakeholder group brought together by the Minister for Older People and Equalities to aid policy and support the development of the framework. The group identified barriers to a positive older age and highlighted priority areas that should be addressed in the immediate term to deliver better outcomes for older people. They listed the following areas as those in which government and partner action will have the biggest impacts on older people’s lives:

  • access to public services
  • being part of/involvement with communities
  • care sector workers (implications of Brexit)
  • community safety 
  • concessionary travel/transport
  • employment
  • financial security (including pensions/benefits/funeral costs/fuel poverty)
  • health and social care (including mental health, and the voices and experiences of older people in the design, planning and delivery of services around individuals, their carers and other family members)
  • intergenerational activity
  • housing
  • planning for life changes
  • rising retirement age and implications for caring/volunteering.

These are the issues this framework addresses.

The framework will help us understand the issues and how our policies can work together to the benefit of all older people. It sets a direction of travel in which the Government and partners across sectors can begin to develop action that will make real differences to older people’s lives, now and in the future. 

The group identified barriers to a positive older age and highlighted priority areas that should be addressed

The focus of the framework is seen through an equalities lens. Older people face discrimination in our society on account of their age, as well as other factors. Specifically, we want this framework to be a springboard for the Government, regulators, other agencies and communities to challenge and remove age-driven and other inequalities to ensure older people can:

  • continue to engage with and contribute to their communities 
  • access the public and other services they need 
  • ensure financial security as they move into retirement.

The framework is presented in three main chapters that cover these key areas, preceded by a brief introduction. Each chapter sets out the areas that older people have prioritised, what action the Government and partners are already taking on these issues, and what more needs to be done to ensure sustainable change for the future. 

The framework also features quotes from reports and other sources, including the Ipsos-MORI/Centre for Ageing Better report The Perennials: the future of ageing[1].

The Scottish Government would like to thank the Older People’s Strategic Action Forum and their networks for supporting the development of this framework. 

Introduction: being older in Scotland

Celebrate the person I am, not just my age.

We need to recognise that the country is ageing. Keeping older people active, healthy and engaged is of benefit to everyone.

Older people are not a homogenous group. The span of older age as defined in this framework – from age 50 – emphasises the breadth of diversity in this population. In some instances, we are looking at a period of life that spans 50 years or more. 

Older people are also at very diverse stages of life. They may be in work or in retirement, single, married, separated or widowed, be in a relationship or living alone, and be with or without children or grandchildren. They may be volunteering, receiving education or educating others, living in major cities, small towns or country villages, with family or friends, on their own, or in a care setting. They might enjoy financial security or face economic uncertainty, be well or ill, fit or frail, happy or sad, engaged or isolated. They may have been born here or come from another country, identify as male, female or non-binary, be straight, gay or bisexual, or be black, white or from another racial or minority ethnic group. Their diversity is vast. 

The population is ageing at a faster rate in Scotland than the rest of the UK. Median age (the age at which half the population is older and half younger) in Scotland is 42.0 years from the mid-2017 population estimates, around two years higher than in the UK as a whole, and is projected to rise to 45.4 years by 2041, compared to 43.5 years for the UK. There is also considerable geographical variation in the ageing of the population within Scotland. In general, it is lowest in the cities and higher in more rural areas.[2]

Between 2016 and 2026, all council areas in Scotland are projected to experience an increase in their population aged 75 and over. Clackmannanshire (+48.0%) and West Lothian (+46.0%) are projected to experience the largest increases, while Dundee City (+9.6%) and Glasgow City (+2.9%) have the smallest increases.[3]

Scotland already has in place a hugely diversified portfolio of policy and legislative measures that support older people, whether specific to their needs (such as providing free personal care and concessionary travel) or applicable across the whole population (like the smoking ban and health and social care integration). Older people are already benefitting from these measures. But we recognise that we need to do more to ensure that all sectors of government link to deliver joined-up actions that impact on all the key elements of older people’s lives – continuing to engage with and contribute to their communities, accessing the public and other services they need, and ensuring financial security as they move into and through retirement. 

‘Over 50s in the UK are the top spenders in a number of categories, such as travel and tourism, food, clothing, household goods and eating out.’
J. Walter Thompson Intelligence (2018)
The Elastic Generation – The Female Edit

Increased longevity means that older people can now typically expect to live for another two or three decades. Maintaining wellbeing and a good quality of life in the later years is now recognised as involving not only good health and economic security, but also maintaining social connections, keeping mentally and physically stimulated and having a sense of purpose. This can be termed as productive engagement.[4] 

‘Productivity’ here includes activity that is not simply economic output, but which nonetheless creates value – doing housework or home improvements, caring, volunteering, or playing with grandchildren and informally helping out with friends and neighbours, for example. By this reckoning, around 98% of older households regularly undertake some productive activity. This is the longevity dividend accruing from the contribution of older people to both the economic and social fabric of society.[5]

The idea of productivity also counteracts assumptions of older people being dependent. Public leaders can help to shape a narrative of ageing that emphasises social cohesion, no matter people’s capacity to participate, that robustly confronts ageism, and which recognises and values older people’s lifelong contributions and potential.

Scotland’s population by age

Scotland’s population by age

WEMWBS wellbeing measure average score
People aged over 65 had the highest mental wellbeing

WEMWBS wellbeing measure average score
People aged over 65 had the highest mental wellbeing

People are living longer, but not everyone is living well in their older age. They may live with ill health or disability, isolation, financial insecurity, discrimination and fear of exploitation or abuse. We must focus our efforts and energies in supporting those who need our help and put in place structures and support to ensure they and future generations of older people in Scotland live long, happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. 

Life expectancy in Scotland for the period 2015–2017 was 77.0 years for men and 81.1 years for women[6], which lags behind the UK as a whole, and is also one of the lowest in Western Europe. There are also stark variations in life expectancy and health status by region within Scotland; areas of lowest socio-economic status have lower life expectancy, but in addition a greatly prolonged period of ill health before death.[7]

Across our communities and workplaces, we need to recognise and start planning for ageing. We must also recognise that the challenge to society, businesses and policy-makers is to collaborate and design policy and solutions in a new way. Too often the dominant narrative of ageing in Scotland is focused on the ‘deficit model’ – the rising costs of health and social care and the sustainability of public finances and funding models, the tensions across generations that are changing our culture and society, and the need to invest in an infrastructure that is fit for today’s and tomorrow’s older generations. We want to change that narrative and we invite you to join us.

That’s why we are supporting the Festival of Ageing, creating a national platform to celebrate our ageing population and promote the huge benefits older people bring to society.

The Festival of Ageing will seek to:

  • help articulate a vision of the kind of Scotland we want to see, where business, public sector and third sector organisations can work together with communities and civic Scotland to shape a new national narrative on ageing
  • highlight the Scottish Government’s own work in this area and provide a platform to link this to the Scottish Government’s wider policy context in terms of inclusive growth, Scotland Can Do, digital innovation, education, health and social care, isolation and wider workforce development
  • present the evidence, experience and opportunity that Scotland’s ageing workforce and population brings
  • help empower individuals, organisations and communities to address Scotland’s ageing workforce and population.

We Will
Support the Festival of Ageing to help us start on the path to achieving the aspiration of changing the narrative on ageing, creating a national platform to celebrate our ageing population and promote the huge benefits older people bring to society.

Human rights and equality for older people

The full range of internationally-recognised human rights – civil, political, economic, social, cultural – belong equally to all people, including older people.

We are guided by the UN Principles for Older Persons[8], including in relation to actions that help fulfil economic, social and cultural rights, such as the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, the right to work and to work in decent conditions, and the right to an adequate standard of living. 

Scotland has a long and proud tradition of challenging disadvantage, discrimination and inequality, and this has helped to inform our work. The Equality Act 2010 requires all public authorities to: eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation; advance equality of opportunity; and foster good relations between persons who share a protected characteristic and those who do not. To deliver this obligation, the Scottish Government promotes a mainstreaming approach to equality to ensure that the impact of its policies, programmes and legislation on groups of people who share a protected characteristic are assessed by all areas and at all levels.

Although the 2010 Act is largely reserved, Scottish Ministers have supplemented the general duty by placing detailed requirements on Scottish public authorities through the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012. These Regulations support Scottish public authorities to improve implementation of the duties by requiring them to: report progress on mainstreaming equalities; propose and publish equality outcomes; assess policies and practices from the perspective of equalities; and publish employee information on pay and occupational segregation. 

The Scottish Government is continuing to take forward measures within its devolved powers to deliver a modern, inclusive Scotland that protects, respects and fulfils internationally recognised human rights. The First Minister established an Advisory Group on Human Rights in January 2018 to work independently of government to develop recommendations on how Scotland can continue to lead by example on human rights, including economic, social, cultural and environmental rights. The Group presented its report and recommendations to the First Minister on Human Rights Day, 10 December 2018.  

The long-term vision presented by the Group is for a new Act of the Scottish Parliament that brings internationally recognised human rights into Scots Law and creates a new, devolved human rights framework for all of the people of Scotland. 

The rights of rights for older people and LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) communities are not currently the subject of specific, free-standing international human rights treaties, although they are mainstreamed through all other existing treaties.  In order to demonstrate leadership and reflect international best practice, we will ensure that the proposed act explicitly refers to the rights of both older people and LGBTI communities. In doing so, it will cover civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including measures to protect against poverty and social exclusion. 

In 1991 the UN General Assembly adopted the UN Principles for Older Persons, which cover dignity, independence, participation, care and self-fulfilment. The UN General Assembly established a Working Group on Ageing[9], which is considering the feasibility of further instruments and measures to protect the rights of older people.

We Will
Respond in full to the report of the Advisory Group on Human Rights and will prioritise actions that can be taken to address the human rights and equality impact of Brexit.

Work with external partners, engaging widely with civil society, including organisations representing older poeple and with the wider public sector, to establish a National Task Force to take forward the key recommendations, starting in 2019.


Email: karen.mechan@gov.scot

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