Dame Joan appointed Champion of the elderly

Paula Fentiman,Pa
Sunday 09 November 2008 12:55 GMT

Broadcaster and writer Dame Joan Bakewell was appointed by the Government today as a champion of the elderly.

Minister for Women Harriet Harman announced that Dame Joan, 75, has agreed to be a Voice of Older People.

The woman dubbed the "thinking man's crumpet" will act as an "independent and informed advocate" on issues that affect older people's lives.

Her role will include raising the profile of age equality issues and encouraging public debate around legislation dealing with age discrimination.

The journalist will be invited to give her views on key policy developments and to speak at relevant Government events.

Dame Joan said: "I welcome the chance to speak up for older people: we are increasing in numbers and need to be heard.

"With more and more of us expecting to live longer, there are issues that concern every individual: how will I provide for myself; how shall I afford such necessities as heating, lighting and insurance; what will my pension rights be; how much help can I expect from the state?

"We all - not just the over 50s - need to confront such concerns now so that we move to a reassuring future where people can look forward to enjoying their old age in peace.

"I look forward to being one of many voices making it widely known what it means to be old, and how to make the most of those important years."

Dame Joan came to prominence in the 1960s on BBC2's Late Night Line-Up on BBC2 and went on to present programmes including Heart of the Matter.

Her beauty and intellect were admired by viewers and humorist Frank Muir dubbed her the "thinking man's crumpet".

She regularly comments on age issues in her column in The Times and has written numerous books, including The View from Here: Life at Seventy.

In June, Ms Harman set out details of the Equality Bill, which will ban harmful discrimination against older people while still allowing things that benefit them, such as free bus passes.

Dame Joan will be able to contribute to the debate on what will be banned and what will remain permissible, Ms Harman said.

The legislation will also put a new legal duty on public bodies to take older people into consideration when planning services, such as not providing parking tickets through complicated technology which older people may be less able to use.

Ms Harman said: "Joan is a champion in the fight against discrimination against older people and a role model for active and positive senior citizens; so I'm delighted that she's going to contribute to the equalities agenda and be a voice for older people."

Dame Joan's role will be unpaid although expenses will be covered.

Pensions Minister Rosie Winterton said: "With one-in-four children born today likely to live beyond 100, the changing face of our country has far-reaching consequences for us all.

"As we celebrate the fact we are living longer, we also need to rise to the challenges of an ageing society and I am delighted that Dame Joan will play an important role in this work."

Age Concern Director General Gordon Lishman said: "With attitudes and institutions struggling to keep up with the implications of our ageing population, the creation of a Voice for Older people is very welcome.

"Joan Bakewell is an excellent choice to champion older people's rights in this new role. She offers a formidable set of skills, proven commitment and real passion."

Paul Cann, Director of Policy and External Relations at Help the Aged, said: "Joan Bakewell is strong, well-respected and in touch with the issues of older people - we're delighted that in this role, she will be able to help older people across the country, have their voices heard.

"Joan Bakewell played a fundamental role in breaking down gender barriers in the past - we hope that in this new role, she can help break down the barriers to equality so many older people face."

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