“Longevity – Burden or Blessing ? “

Almost a year ago on the 7th April 2010, I wrote a blog entitled “How did we become such a burden?”  It was sub-titled “unravelling the demographic and economic clash”.  According to a report by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, the situation needs to start “unravelling” very soon or it will be too late to avoid an even bigger economic disaster than the one caused by the recent banking crisis.  The paper predicts that the ageing population will lead to a widening gap between the money we spend and the money we raise in taxes – some £85 billion per year by 2058.  The “unravelling” options are stark and difficult both politically for Government and individually for the old and the young.  For older people it means a later retirement age and lower levels of free health and social care.  For the younger generations taking no action would mean a doubling of taxation to pay for the ageing population.

This is not a new message, it is just one that we collectively do not want to hear.  The point of my blog last year was to attempt to explain the demographic growth in the ageing population, which didn’t happen overnight – it took decades – indeed generations.  There was ample time to plan for the future, but the majority of us individually did not save enough in pensions and collectively our politicians focussed on the short-term rather than long-term planning because few of us would vote for the higher costs of social care if it meant higher taxes.

It is a collective failure which we will now have to redress —– and it won’t be easy.

In a blog in June 2010 I commented on an article in The Times by the journalist and economist Anatoly Kaletsky which forecast tension between generations.  He accurately predicted there would have to be cutbacks in pensions, health care and long-term care.

Just look what has happened since.

In terms of pensions:-

  • Retirement age has been abolished
  • The State pension is now annually increased but only linked to CPI not RPI
  • Eligibility for a State pension is gradually moving back toward 70
  • Final salary pensions have all but disappeared in the private sector and are planned to be reduced in the public sector

Health care:-

  • NHS elderly care is under severe criticism in terms of quality
  • Social Services support is limited to critical and substantial cases only
  • Residential care homes are struggling to survive economically
  • Long-term care funding awaits the outcome of the Dilnot Commission but it is clear there will be a significant element of sharing the cost in future between the individual and the State

There is an inevitability about the direction that all these moves are taking, and no question that most people are going to have to pay more for their old age.  It would be best to greet this outcome not as the burden we all have to carry, but as the blessing of all the additional years we have been given in later life.  To do this, our focus needs to move away from costs and cuts towards a new and positive vision of ageing.


This entry was posted in ELDERLY UK POLICY and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to “Longevity – Burden or Blessing ? “

  1. david freeman says:

    This is a difficult blog to respond to for me personally in order to give a coherent reply: But reply I shall, with reason and a little show of emotion. I make my own case below, as I believe it is for each person to do so, and then for the majority of opinions to be the guiding light as how one may solve the problem at hand. I am for the purpose of this piece retired, male, married and 68 years old with 2 children and 4 grandchildren.
    My parents and grandparents fought in two world wars and lived through the 1930’s depression. Health care was not as it is today and my father’s family lost their mother just after childbirth of the 7th child. My grandfather was a master mariner and he was made redundant/retired after the amalgamation of his shipping company in the late 1930’s. My father’s family therefore had a family home Granted by a ‘Trust’: However the 7 children aged 2 to 15 had to live on grandfathers pension, and the benefits of the greater family, who could support them, in both education and living standards.
    My mother’s family worked and lived in the Empire, but the children when of school age were sent back to the UK to live with their maternal grandmother for their personal period of schooling. This was ok until WWII when the grandfather and mother lost all their personal and economic processions on the event of Japan Invading Burma.
    Working Lives
    My father’s family used the ties in the Liverpool shipping industry to provide apprenticeships, and introductions to the Liverpool commercial circles. My father started life as a porter for the meat trade in the Liverpool docks, and then as a clerk in the sweet industry.
    It was basically WWII that provided purpose and a livelihood for my entire father’s family.
    My mother’s family by contrast, lost all it processed in its income, and well being. My Grandfather and Grandmother had to start work all over again in the UK after repatriation back to the UK. The 4 children again depended on the war effort in England in WWII to provide then with a living.
    I was influenced by my father’s side of the family, and yet scared of the losses suffered by my mother’s side of the family suffered as a result of WWII in economic terms only: (All the greater immediate family survived WWII.)
    My father all ways quoted that his father/my grandfather good fortune was that was because he stayed loyal to his employers during his working life. He may have been made redundant/retired but his pension settlement was satisfactory as he had had so few employers. It was drummed into me as a youngster ’to do as one is told’, and always if possible obey an order or believe in those who ask you to carry out orders. (To unto others what you would do unto yourself.)
    My maternal grandparents had to adjust to working well into their pensionable age (Far Eastern Service in the Empire one could retire at 50). My grandfather died of a heart condition in 1953? Which then was incurable but today is considered normal and operable?
    What am I saying?
    I have been influenced by my immediate family, and luckily for me personally since WWII we have had Nationalised Industries (Steel/coal/railways/power/telecoms/education/health/ broadcasting, and to some extent a shipping industry). These industries mopped up and provided employment with the textile industry the electrical AEI and GEC industrial groups the machine tools and aero industry to great swaths of the UK population.
    Most of these industries offered apprenticeships, employment and pension schemes and sick pay arrangements for most of their employees. Most of these schemes encouraged loyalty to make the maximum return for the individual employee and the company.
    This was the good times then things began to change and UKPLC had to become competitive and one by one the main industries together with the nationalised industries became un-economic, and the UKPLC could not pay its way. It is difficult to be rational about the state of UKPLC in the 80’s &90’s. Jobs of earning power (to the well being of UKPLC) were disappearing faster than could be replaced, and hence we have the stalemate of today Union Power against private industry both side need a kick up the backside, and neither side has the correct solution? We as a nation need to work together.
    The only argument that is valid is that education both technically, scientifically and socially on how to work with ones neighbour is as true as ever, at both a local parish level and on a world stage.
    I have rambled on a little. However in a reflective mood on the current day I find that only the BBC/NHS/Civil Service all off which advice, maybe entertain in part, but they do not provide meaningful work or earning power for a great swath of the UK’s national population.
    For instance The NHS is a provider and a user of services and it to its great credit works to protect and prolong life: However I ask is their services and research worthy of a greater earning capacity in the UKplc argument? Should we sell the research and development at a higher cost to the highest bidder or is it for all of us to use as citizen of the UK? What price is a life? Or should the NHS remain a benefit to the UK Population?
    Many employers have gone down the route of self employed employees on short term contacts, where one makes provision for one’s own pension and one’s family financial provision and sick pay arrangements.
    In reflection the finance industry which is now nationalised (In part) made a great mistake with the Equitable Life Insurance Group, which in some respect robbed people of their pension rights and payout. Again with the collapse in the 2008/9 the financial industry has not acted with honesty and we are all suffering for the greed of the few.

    The arguments put forward by today’s Politian’s ( My children’s generation) I must trust as they have the information at their finger tips, and hope that they have the ideals I was personally brought up to and to which I agree. I still have my vote and if my generation are in the majority of the voting populous, I was always will vote and I may be heard above the roar of apparent discontent. I hope I live as statistically projected 100 years, but in the main I will be more than happy having lived a good life in a good Christian country of 3 score years and 10, and any extra years I hope to enjoy as a bonus.
    The retirement age at 70 is a tactic, and it is warning to the younger generation (My grandchildren) that they will have to think what they wish to do when they reach the age of 60 or 65 or 50 if they work out east of Suez.
    The younger generation will have to think for tomorrow today!
    Pensionable age is a state of mind not a right- It is something the modern generations have to strive for.

  2. john graham says:

    Thanks David for this excellent post.
    The personal history gives a sharp insight into the wide variety of experiences that have shaped the many differing views of the current and older groups of pensioners.
    I am not so confident that our more recent crop of politicians, of all parties, have respect for the contribution the older generations have made. Whatsmore you can only rely on your vote to correct their views if there is sufficient difference of opinion between them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s