Ageing population should be seen as an opportunity

COMMENT: All agencies must to held to account for Anne Savidge’s tragic death

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For years wiseacres and penny-pinchers have talked funereally of an ‘agequake’. Life expectancy is rising at the rate of 5-6 hours a day and the average is now 77.7 for men and 81.9 for women.

It gets worse! Many babies born today can expect to knock up a century. Pity the poor monarch having to write all those birthday cards. Worse still. Once upon a time retirement would last less than a decade before an OAP kicked the bucket.

Now many baby-boomers could spend longer in retirement than they have in paid employment – enjoying their great-grandchildren (like me). Dickens’s Mr Gradgrind would be tearing his hair out.

Never fear. The government is doing its best to stop such criminal waste. Its commission, under the former New Labourite Lord Hutton, has worked out how we must pay more for less – and work longer. This on top of wage freezes and VAT increases to deliver pension pain.

Already 1.8m pensioners live in poverty and many find it hard to exist on their state pension of £115 a week – one of the lowest in Europe.

Meanwhile, their banker compatriots continue to have an unquenchable (and unhampered) thirst for sky-high salaries and bonuses.

Instead of rejoicing at the wonderful gift given us by medical advances, we are being made to feel guilty. Pardon me for living so long! Sorry to take up your space!

The question our masters ask is: who is going to foot the bill for pensions and health care? However, a study published last week reveals that, far from being a burden on the economy, older people are in fact net contributors.

The research, for volunteer charity WRVS, calculates that, ‘taking together the tax payments, spending power, caring responsibilities and volunteering effort of people aged 65-plus, they contribute almost £40bn more to the UK economy than they receive in state pensions, welfare and health services.’

Besides that, the baby boomer generation is the best-educated, healthiest and fittest group of younger oldies this country has ever seen.

Instead of viewing an ageing population as a threat, why not see it as an opportunity?