The Daily Mail has to be applauded for its relentless, if half-hearted, campaign in pursuit of “Dignity for the Elderly”. (Click on “Dignity be Damned” in the TAG CLOUD for earlier blogs on this subject).
It is a good story line, which must be of interest to the 1,000’s of Daily Mail elderly readers, but it must dismay them that so little has been achieved in spite of all the publicity.
To describe it as a campaign suggests that there is an underlying strategy to bring about change. The call for dignity sounds laudable, but what really does it mean ? When will we know when it has been achieved ?
Age UK at its “Later Life” conference earlier this year, also championed dignity as a major theme of their work in the coming months.
When elderly people are living in poverty, malnourished, dehydrated and cruelly cared for, dignity comes low down the list of their priorities. Age UK and the Daily Mail are making themselves feel good as “Champions of the Elderly” but spectacularly missing the point.
So now we come to the latest example of the Daily Mail’s failure to build a constructive approach to deal with the plight of many of the poorest older people. In three articles on successive pages of the same edition of the Daily Mail – Monday, 26th May 2012 – there are 1) a recurring problem; 2) a success story; 3) a solution; all of which could be linked together to help thousands of older people in need. The newspaper did not make the connection, so let me do it for them.
The first story by their Whitehall correspondent, was sensationally headlined “Soaring toll of elderly starving in their homes”. The story is about the cutbacks in home care services for the elderly — meals on wheels now being charged for and reduction in domiciliary care hours. 82% of Local Authorities now limit services only to those who have “critical” or “substantial needs”. The consequence of this is that while Social Services have saved £84 million from their care bill, the NHS is now facing a 42% rise in admissions for malnutrition since 2007. These are staggeringly large figures but they only warrant a small article about untold suffering. But let’s not call it “loss of dignity”, it is cruel NEGLECT!
The second article was given much more prominence in a three page story on the successful growth of Tesco into the world’s second most profitable retailer. Last year they made £3 billion profit. Interestingly one billion items were home deliveries. Something which I will come back to – but the Daily Mail made no connection between these two stories about food.
The third story – just a few paragraphs tucked away – was about a new range of ready meals which can be stored at room temperature and last for up to 18 months. Guess what? they are being sold by Tesco.
Now if the Editor of the Daily Mail reads his own paper and does some joined-up thinking, he could really make a difference to the estimated one million elderly who are malnourished. Why not harness the power of the press to create a good news story. Encourage, cajole, persuade and/or shame Tesco to use some of their profits for a nationwide corporate social responsibility programme.
With the help of Age UK, get each of Tesco’s quarter of a million employees to identify four elderly people in need and then at a discounted cost provide them with 18 months’ supply of ready meals using their home delivery service.
Then at least no elderly person in this advanced country of ours need go hungry. Tesco would enhance their reputation as good corporate citizens rather than commercial profiteers and the Daily Mail and Age UK would be able to say they had achieved something for the elderly as opposed to just talking endlessly about dignity.
Food not Dignity