AC May’s View – Latter Years & End of Life

Monday April 26th 2021

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Midlothian View Holyrood Challenge: This View has been written by AC May, the Scottish Liberal Democrats's candidate in the Midlothian South, Tweeddale & Lauderdale constituency for the Scottish Elections on Thursday May 6th 2021

In this series of Views, I’ve already talked about Early Years, Young People and Mid Life. So it should come as no surprise that this week I’m concluding with a piece on Latter Years & End of Life.

Young people live life on the assumption they’ll stay young; older people look up and wonder where the years went. Admittedly I’m on that tipping point myself. Old age, and eventually death, come to us all – so why are we so reluctant to talk about it? It’s probably a cultural fear, too lengthy to delve into here.

But as a society, and in government, we must address the needs of an aging population. Jobs for life are increasingly rare, and people in their fifties, sixties and seventies may live for many decades to come. We need to support career transition – the job you did in your twenties is unlikely to be suitable – or even still around – in your fifties. So we must give workers of all ages the opportunity to retrain to acquire skills for the future.

In retirement we have to look at living costs, as most people will encounter a drop in income but still have to manage bills. A decent state pension, comparable to a living wage. Cold weather payments, free bus travel, free TV licences. Yet quality of life is about more than paying bills. As Scottish Liberal Democrats we want to increase investment in activities suitable for older people and disabled people, such as health walks, new sporting opportunities and riding groups, helping to reduce social isolation and loneliness. Our plans for public transport investment benefits people of all ages, but especially those who feel they can no longer walk, cycle or drive.

We must also champion the contribution of older people to volunteering, community work, education and culture, so that the value of their experience is passed-on, and not lost to future generations.

We’ve seen a crisis in our care homes which must be addressed urgently. Too many have been failed, too many have died prematurely and without appropriate support. We support the establishment of national care service standards, with the required funding, and effective complaint resolution when services fall short.

We will scrap charges for care services delivered at home, helping people to stay in their homes if they choose. We will make sure people do not have to pay for their care when they have advanced dementia. We will give relatives of care home residents recognised status of ‘essential caregiver’ to ensure they are not separated from their loved ones the way they have been during the pandemic.

Yet ultimately, life does come to an end. Modern medical practice is sufficiently advanced to know when a patient has a terminal illness and requires palliative care. We can do so much more to help people living with terminal illnesses, and often chronic incurable pain. We can be liberal and humanitarian, and allow people to make their own informed, free choices about how their pain and their dying is managed. Dying is inevitable, but we can allow people to die with dignity.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this series of Views, as I’ve stepped-through four phases of life, demonstrating Scottish Liberal Democrat thinking and policies in each. It’s been useful for me to gather my thoughts and really think about what I stand for; I hope you’ve found it useful too, and maybe… just maybe… it will help you to vote Scottish Liberal Democrat on the 6th of May.

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