Suddenly all the talk is about older people. For as long as I can remember the media spotlight has been on the young, their life-style fascinating to many of us (‘it wasn’t like that in my young days’) and their economic value a constant invitation to people who want to make money out of them. The middle-aged are left to plod on with their considerable responsibilities as best they can; soon they may be the media’s most neglected age group, even though they run the world!
But now it’s older people – their interests, needs and place in society – that are hitting the headlines. There have been a series of reports in Britain about the care of older people and the way in which society often discriminates against them, and we have referred to this in recent blogs. People are increasingly being offered early retirement, and subsequently find it hard to live on their savings and pensions. There is a public discussion going on about the right to continue to work for as long as people are able to do so, irrespective of their age, and its seems that quite a few people are beating the age ban.
Otherwise future generations may have to survive as pensioners for the same number of years as they have worked. Our generation is in a unique situation.
Whilst the physical and psychological needs of older people are being recognised and to some extent addressed, the remarkable rabbi and activist Julia Neurenberg thinks very much more than that is needed. She has just published a book with the arresting title ‘Not Dead Yet: A Manifesto for Old Age’. Apparently she argues that in the U.K. the way we view and treat the old has barely adjusted over the years and we are rapidly heading towards a crisis – in health, housing, finance and long–term care. It is shocking, for example, she says, that despite less than 1 in 20 British people want to reside in a care home in their old age, 1 in 5 end up by dying in one.
She argues that it is time that we examined how we look after ourselves as we age – and address issues that when we are young we take for granted as a right, not a privilege. She asks why we are not building suitable housing for the less mobile amongst us, enabling older people to look after themselves for longer? The opportunity to make life better as we age is being missed, but not necessarily because the solutions are so difficult… Are we even asking ourselves the obvious questions?
I shall read the book and report back!