By Leon A Smith
July 5, 2012
This week sees the launch of the BBC season of television programmes called “When I’m 65”. It appears that the purpose of the season is to explore the aging process for a number of different people in a number of different settings. A number of celebrities are being used to front this, including Gloria Huniford, Lesley Joseph etc. It’s most gratifying to see that this rapidly growing demographic segment of our population is being given increased exposure and that issues concerning the aging process and, indeed, the lives and provision for older people are being covered from a number of different perspectives.
I very much welcome any positive news stories and/or positive programmes relating to older people and indeed the aging process. All too often, as I have said many times before, care of older people is seen in a very negative light with only very bad news stories ever making the headlines or the TV news.
It is interesting however to explore how such a vast segment of the population can be categorised and/or labelled as “older people”. What is “old”? And at what age does “oldness” start and middle age end? (For that matter, when does being young finish and when does middle age start?). Is there a formal age when one moves automatically from one labelled category into the next. Increased life expectancy/longevity is seeing the goalposts being moved considerably and for that reason of course this government and indeed future governments need to consider the whole question of provision for older people in a number of different areas.
Understandably the age of eligibility for State pensions is being increased and one suspects that this will need to be further increased within an accelerated timeframe. Put simply, we have an ever increasing number of “older” people who need to be supported in a variety of different ways. This applies not only to State provision but also to occupational pensions as well. Whereas an annuity purchased generations ago may have been paid out for 15 years, today it may have to be paid out for 25 years or more: hence the very significant changes in annuity rates which have hit the pension market over a gradual period of time.
The impact of an ever growing group of older people also of course impacts on the health service and government/local authorities in relation to residential and nursing care costs. I will not explore again the various merits and/or otherwise of the current funding regime – suffice to say the current system is simply not sustainable.
One might consider, however, that priority should be given to examining the logic of providing universal non-Means Tested benefits – Freedom Passes, Winter Fuel payments etc. It may well be that the cost of Means Testing for these benefits would in reality be higher than the cost of the current benefits. But nevertheless one feels that with limited reasources to go around these should be used in the most targeted and focussed way possible. There are many people who simply have no need for these additional perks of being “old”.
Change of subject! If you follow my blog you will know that some weeks ago I endeavoured to make contact with the Israeli Olympic team to see whether one or two of their members might be interested in coming down to Nightingale House to meet with some of our residents. The fairly curt response was that they were not going to be doing anything other than focussing on their sports with no social or communal visits at all. Disappointing. I understand the need to focus on the sports but what a great PR opportunity this is for Israel both within the community and beyond. It seems a shame that a handful of athletes from what I assume is a reasonably sized team could not have been given some protected time to have met with some members of the community. Having said that, I wish the team every possible success in their efforts at the Olympics.
I am really sorry as are so many other people that a minute’s silence in memory of Munich is not to be observed.