‘Who’s going to look after Grandma?’

There’s been a lot of talk in the British press and media recently about caring for the elderly. It seems that with a limited social care budget for the young and the old, it’s the young that are winning, though I would question that. (School playing fields have been sold off. Investment in youth leaders and clubs, and the provision of sporting facilities have all declined in the last couple of decades. The increase in criminal behaviour amongst young people must surely be related to that.)

However, with people living longer and pensions under threat, more and more older people are likely to be totally dependent on their own resources. We are told that the State is likely to be unable – or unwilling – to provide accommodation or domiciliary care for the aged and the very old, which for those of us who are travelling that road, is worrying indeed.

Apparently centenarians are the fastest growing section of the U.K. population and are likely to live with less health problems than people who die in their 70’s and 80’s.

Thomas Kirkwood, director of Ageing and Health at Newcastle University, is leading a study of 800 85 year-olds to find out what enables people to stay healthy in advanced old age. We aren’t all going to reach the 100’s, and I certainly don’t have the ambition to do so. Health rather than longevity matters most to me. But there is no doubt that people are living longer and will continue to do so. It may feel like a burden to people who are still working – all those taxes to look after us – but it is also a responsibility, and a warning. One day they will be old.

This then becomes a political matter which has hardly begun to be widely considered in the U.K. It’s no good medical science and sensible living prolonging life, if, as we get to the end of it, we are full of anxiety about where we can live, how we can afford to pay our bills and who – if it becomes necessary – will look after us.

The ‘grey’ vote is powerful in Britain. We must be the most reliable voting group of any, and with so many younger people being cynical about politicians, we continue to be the ones who are committed to the political process. So, rise up Wrinklies! We must take to the streets, or at least write to our M.P.’s, and join the debate. There are no simple answers, but its time that the questions were faced.

A major social issue is being ignored.