‘Loo leash’ forces elderly to stay in or avoid drinking before going out

Toilet outside
Toilet outside

Older people have warned that they are deliberately avoiding drinking water or liquids owing to a lack of public lavatories.

Wales Senior Forum, a national forum of older people made up of representatives from various national pensioners organisations and older people’s groups across the country, said public washrooms across the country had either shut or become less accessible since the pandemic.

Gareth Parsons, the organisation’s chairman, called on the Welsh government to provide specific funding for public lavatories.

‘It’s very difficult’

Martin Carroll, 75, told the BBC that he had stopped drinking sometimes two hours before leaving the house.

“It’s very difficult,” he said. “Before you go out you need to think about where you are going to go, where you are going to be in town, will there be the chance to use the toilet in a café of not?”

He added that sometimes he instead opted to stay home as it was easier than “constantly worrying”.

Across the border, according to research conducted by Age UK in 2022, 81 per cent of Londoners think that public toilet provision in their borough is bad.

Nine in 10 Londoners have considered public toilet provision before making a journey to a particular place, and more than half (52 per cent) say they sometimes reduce the amount they drink before leaving home.

One older Londoner told Age UK London: “Lack of clean, accessible public toilets traps people at home and prevents them getting out and about. It affects more of us than you might imagine.”

Abigail Wood, chief executive of Age UK London said: “Good public toilet provision is a hallmark of a civilised society and the fact that 81 per cent of people think that the availability of toilets in their borough is bad is a scandal.

‘Significant cause of social isolation’

“The ‘loo leash’, where people don’t leave their homes as much as they might like because of worries that they will not be able to find a public toilet, is a significant cause of social isolation.”

The Welsh government said that it had introduced legislation to improve provision of public toilets, amid the financial challenges faced by councils.

A spokesman said: “We have issued comprehensive statutory guidance, which encourages them [local authorities] to make better use of existing toilet facilities in public and private sector buildings.

“It also highlights that accessible toilets are more important for people with conditions such as incontinence, urgency and prostate problems.”