Campaigner suggests nationwide ‘Golden Day’ fundraiser – but admits lack of interest from broadcasters
Presenter and campaigner Dame Esther Rantzen has called for an annual television fundraiser for older people.
As the social care funding crisis bites, the founder of the Silver Line – a helpline for lonely older people – is intent on establishing an annual “Golden Day” but is hitting brick walls.
“I can’t persuade any major media partners to get involved in it because there’s nothing sexy to them about old age,” the 76-year-old said. “If you say the word ‘old’ to television, radio and newspapers, they immediately switch off. My New Year resolution is to go and see Comic Relief and see if I can interest them in a Golden Day.”
The Childline founder added that following on from the public inquiry into institutional child abuse, she would also like to see an inquiry focusing on elder abuse.
“There are important stories that need to be heard,” said Rantzen. “The inquiry’s aim should be to ensure people abused are heard and to learn lessons. If older people were prepared to disclose what was happening in their lives, I’m absolutely certain it would uncover things, we need to know.”
She said she believed there were a “huge number of cases” of older people being ignored and neglected. Rantzen called on Theresa May to “make it completely unacceptable to ignore, despise or resent old people”.
The broadcaster said attitudes towards older people had changed during her lifetime. She remembered going shopping with her grandmother as a child as a social experience.
“Every shop she went into they’d ask her about her family – they would have a conversation,” said Rantzen. “But now, if you pause at a supermarket checkout, staff say something and you get grumbles from people in the queue behind.”
Her grandmother chatted to her daughters daily and Rantzen saw her weekly. “We didn’t think of that as caring for her. We just knew she was part of our lives. Absolutely central.
“People as they get older remain human beings. We need to praise them, regard them as precious, recognise their value to us and as they get more frail, we need to recognise our debt to them.”
But recalling a Silver Line caller who spent Christmas Day alone and hadn’t spoken to anybody for a week, she said: “When I rang her, she was in her nightclothes, during the day she doesn’t get dressed. She has no reason to.”