Seniors gather for annual conference

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Strong winds may have blown their march off course – but pensioners arriving in Blackpool for their annual convention remain steadfast in their demands to be treated fairly.

Protecting pensions, continuing free bus travel and investing in social care are among the priorities the nation’s over-60s are calling for.

Photo Neil Cross
Pensioners Parliament conference at Blackpool Winter Gardens

Photo Neil Cross Pensioners Parliament conference at Blackpool Winter Gardens

The annual National Pensioners Convention (NPC) was forced to curtail its traditional curtain-raiser which sees participants walk through the town centre with their banners due to bad weather.

Instead they gathered inside the Winter Gardens for the start of the three-day conference at the venue.

Jan Shortt, NPC general secretary, said the outcome of tomorrow’s General Election would have a huge impact on the lives of many older people.

She said: “Despite how older people are often portrayed, they are not all gallivanting on SAGA cruises or jumping out of aeroplanes on their 90th birthday.

Photo Neil Cross
Pensioners Parliament conference at Blackpool Winter Gardens

Photo Neil Cross Pensioners Parliament conference at Blackpool Winter Gardens

“The reality is that 20 per cent of older people live in poverty and 60 per cent are living on an annual income of less than £11,500 a year.

“We can only start to address the very serious issues facing older people when we accept a more balanced view of what life is like for millions of pensioners in 21st century Britain.

“This election may rest on the so-called ‘grey vote’, so it’s important older people realise exactly what each of the parties is offering.”

Delegates gathered in Blackpool from across the UK.

Thomas Ridley, 83, from Newcastle and his brother Stephen, 73, have been attending the convention for at least 15 years.

Thomas said: “I just hope whoever gets in will keep the solemn promise to support the triple lock on pensions and that winter fuel allowances are not means tested.

“We also want free bus passes to continue, and the NHS should have more funding because people are living longer.”

Vic Jeffries, also from the North East, representing British Steel Pensioners, said: “We mustn’t let the triple lock go.

“There are pensioners who have to decide whether to turn the heat on or have a meal.”

The triple lock was introduced in 2010 by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government.

It is a guarantee to increase the state pension every year by the higher of inflation, average earnings or a minimum of 2.5 per cent.

Also represented was the Islington Pensioners Forum - whose president is Jeremy Corbyn.

Member Myrna Talbot, 69, said: “I’m concerned about health and one thing I think we need is a lot more investment in both dementia care and research.

“A lot more people are going to be suffering dementia and we have to do something about it.”

Events during the conference will also include a demonstration of walking football, and a social evening in the Empress Ballroom.

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