(Unraveling the demographic and economic clash.)
Everyone agrees there are a lot more older people around these days because they are all living longer. Trouble is they are also a lot frailer which is why they are costing so much more to look after. How did this creep up on us? Like a Tsunami you don’t know its coming until – one day BAM!
But hold on – demographic changes don’t happen suddenly, they are born over decades, centuries even.
The Victorians have a lot to answer for; they sowed the first seeds of today’s longevity – out of the era of dark satanic mills when people worked themselves into an early grave. Additionally in the 19th Century major epidemics like cholera and typhoid played a significant part in killing off large numbers of the population, especially children. From this hell hole of early death came major social reforms in employment and very big improvements in sanitation and public health.
However before these things could really make a difference the First World War intervened and culled a generation of young men. Out of the carnage of the trenches, advances in medical care were born and in the post war period infant mortality also reduced. Longevity was on the increase but would take many more years to be noticed. The second world war obscured this understanding but in its aftermath it created an urgent enthusiasm for social reform to deal with the inequalities of the past, from which there was no turning back.
Beverages welfare reforms created expectations of universal rights for the home-coming heroes and their families to survive and thrive. Then Nye Bevan set out to erase the inequalities of the health care system by founding the NHS – a safety net free for all.
This raised everyone’s eyes to the prospect of a longer, healthier and wealthier life. The untimely deaths of the Victorian era were banished to history and the dire poverty of the interwar depression were forgotten.
Today’s generation of grannies and granddads have memories of that period they prefer to forget but a dangerous seed was sown in the minds of the baby boomers born after the second world war. A something for nothing mentality in a new generation of all hope and expectation but little sense of history. Indeed, they were not taught modern history, rather they learned about Britain’s great past – the all conquering, all consuming British empire. A rose-tinted view of global domination and exploitation, at a time of 1851 – innovation and cultural enlightenment. The more relevant recent past of the 20th century where there were important lessons to be learned, was too tragic and raw to discuss, so we left it out!
So now our young people live life in the fast paced space age generation leaving behind the baby boomers to enter retirement and boldly go where no man (or woman) has gone before. In an era of longer lives, huge expectations and few resources to cover the cost of old age, we are left with the question
“How did we all get to be so old and so frail so suddenly”