Friday, 8 July 2011

Stewart Dakers and the Over 60s

The Guardian today has Stewart Dakers arguing that the elderly should expect to contribute to the costs of their care, one way or another. Lots of venomous posts in response from the "I've paid my taxes now give me them back" brigade.

We fail to think clearly about what is involved in getting older and we allow the elderly to think very unclearly about it: we indulge far too many of their fantasies

Getting older - past 60 - means that there is an ever-increasing chance that your luck will run out. For example, whilst most breast cancer campaigning offers images of younger women afflicted, in reality the risks of developing breast cancer increase with age. The same is true for most cancers - and for most illnesses which affect physical mobility and mental capacity.

Older people respond to their sense that things may go badly wrong in various ways.

Some just keep going, changing none of their habits until forced by circumstances. This group includes the people who carry on working, given the chance.

Some carry on much as normal but make adjustments to lifestyle and contingency plans, discussed with their children if they have them.

Others batten down the hatches. They stop spending, they hoard, they lie. There are lots of older people who present an image of poverty when, in fact, they are both asset rich (houses) and cash rich. When they need it, they hold out their hands for free care, whether provided by their children or the state.

Often enough, the beneficiaries of this meanness are the cats' and dogs' homes left a pretty penny in the Will.

Governments need to be as robust in the way they address their older citizens as they are when addressing the young. New Labour - Gordon Brown especially - was hopelessly sentimental about the elderly. That has been disastrous. At worst, it means that those over 60 have inflated ideas about what they are Entitled to and why - they believe that they have a Human Right to a Free Bus Pass, than which you cannot get much more absurd and pathetic.

Governments need to listen to dissenting voices among the older age group, people like Stewart Dakers.

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