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Why the UK Needs a Social Policy on Ageing

  • ALAN WALKER (a1)


This article makes the case for a radical new strategy on ageing which focuses on the whole life course with the intention of preventing many of the chronic conditions associated with old age. The case is built on recent research evidence and the life-course concept of ‘active ageing’ is used to encapsulate the practical measures required. Combining biological and social science insights it is argued that, while ageing is inevitable, it is also plastic. This means that it not only manifests itself in different ways but also that it can be modified by mitigating the various risk factors that drive it. Such action would have considerable potential to reduce the personal costs of chronic conditions such as strokes and those falling on family carers but, also, to cut the associated health and social care expenditures. The question of why such apparently beneficial policy action is not being taken is discussed and a range of barriers are identified. One of these appears to be the UK's extreme brand of neo-liberalism, which militates against the collective approach necessary to implement a social policy for active ageing. Although the case is made with primary reference to UK policy and practice, the call for action to prevent chronic conditions has global relevance.

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