Letter: `Grey power' may need a hand

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The Independent Online
`Grey power' may need a hand

Sir: Your admirable leading article "There's no future in a Peter Pan society" (8 March), which neatly captured the obsession of all the major political parties with the cult of youth, noted that "older people are ... much more likely to vote". This is a dangerous generalisation.

It may be true of the recently retired, relatively affluent and still physically active, but evidence of turn-out at the last general election demonstrated alarmingly low voting figures for the half million older people living in residential care homes, nursing homes and other long- stay care settings.

Many of this group are very old indeed and severely disabled. They are in need of precisely the sort of regular help and support which is now seriously under-funded. A democracy worthy of the name would be eager to hear their voices, not least on the issues on which their experience as service-users makes them powerfully informed.

The staff of homes, the friends and relatives of older people in care, and professionals such as social workers and care managers should be making specific efforts to ensure that every resident who wishes to do so has the chance to register their vote when the time comes.

Counsel and Care has prepared a free briefing paper on issues such as postal and proxy voting, and transport and access to polling stations, which we would he happy to distribute to anyone who can make use of it.

JEF SMITH

General Manager

Counsel & Care

16 Bonny Street

London NW1 9PG

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