Commander Brian Boxall-Hunt tells us why it's so important that we care for our ageing fishermen
Christmas can be one of the most magical times of the year, especially when it is spent with loved ones. However, The Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) reported that in 2014, over half a million people would be spending Christmas alone. Age UK suggests that loneliness can be as harmful to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day, highlighting the impact that being lonely can have, especially on the elderly.
Fishermen can sometimes be a solitary group by nature, used to spending long periods of time away from home. They are also proud, meaning they often don’t like asking for help, a trait which they carry with them throughout their lives, but which often means they find it hard to seek the support when needed in later life.
Fortunately, there are many maritime charities dedicated to providing support to former seafarers, their widows and dependants and with good cause. The Institute of Public Care (IPC) published a study this year into the demographic of the UK’s seafarers and found that the total current seafaring population is estimated to be over 75,000.
There is a great need for care in the maritime sector as there are a low number of occupational pension schemes in the seafaring sector and ever rising levels of mariners who require specialist care. A large number of aged seafarers are also living with limiting long-standing illnesses or limitations which prevent them being able to look after themselves, often as a result of spending long periods at sea in what can be extreme conditions.
The IPC estimates that numbers of Merchant Navy and fishing fleet seafarers aged over 85 are projected to increase by more than 275% between now and 2030. This insight, along with continuing welfare reform and austerity measures, indicates that seafarers and their families will continue to be in great need of charitable support for many years to come.
At The Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society, we have recognised that almost two-thirds of our residents have dementia, which led us to open a specialised dementia care annexe in 2011 to provide the targeted support that our residents and their families deserve and require. Age UK further illustrates the rise in UK residents suffering with dementia, noting that in 2014, 850,000 people were estimated to be living with dementia and of this number, 773,502 were aged over 65. This figure is set to rise to 1.14 million by 2025.
Adjusting to life ashore can be difficult for many seafarers so it is vital to get the correct support systems in place to handle an increasing number of former mariners, accommodating them in an environment which is specifically tailored to their needs and giving them the care in later life which they deserve. In this, our 150th anniversary year, we are as committed as ever to providing this high level of care required and provide accommodation for any former fishermen looking for support in their later years, as part of a seafaring community which understand their specific and often diverse needs.