Angry for the Old

I continue to read Julia Neuberger’s Book ‘Not Dead Yet’. She is very angry at the way in which older people are marginalised in British life. Her list of targets is formidable. I have already mentioned her dismissal of QUALYS. She is angry with Insurers who won’t agree to cover older people who are doing voluntary work. She condemns the virtual ban on older women being featured in magazines, frontline politics and television, and calls it ‘a display of youthful fear of age and experience’. Although 1.8M older people in this country are said to live in poverty, Age Concern is ‘too polite in their campaigning’ to help them she alleges. She is critical of most voluntary agencies for the timid way in which they advocate a more just treatment of older people. One of her surprise targets is free bus passes for people in their sixties who may still be working. The money saved could then be used for supporting people who are much older.

She sees age discrimination everywhere.

Retirement ages in particular should be banned. It is ‘a sheer waste of skills and knowledge’ and forcing people into retirement before they wish to stop work can cause pain and ill health. (Apparently the staff at Parliament’s second chamber, the House of Lords, have to retire at 65, even though the average age of their lordships and ladyships must be far in excess of that!). She acknowledges that some people welcome retirement with open arms but still argues for the right to work for people who are still able to, and believes that they are in the majority, which I rather doubt.

Neuberger persistently criticises the care of older people in the U.K.: it is inadequate, unfeeling and inconsistent. She was surprised to find so many good stories about home and residential care, especially when run by charitable organisations, but is appalled at the many shortcomings of a national system which is under-funded and staffed by people who are under-trained.

Residents in Care Homes should be more involved in the running and management of homes, she argues, the cost being shared by the State and the individual.

One interesting discovery for me was that at the age of 95 our organs are likely to be the same as those of a 75 year old. For centenarians, therefore, the ageing process is put on hold. Not, however, a prospect that makes me ambitious to reach that age! Neuberger has the cryptic comment that ‘people over a hundred die quickly ‘because we let them, and 85 year olds die slowly because we don’t’.

More from this passionate and compassionate book, but another time.