Older People Working – Is it a Price Worth Paying

With the recent announcement that people are going to have to work until they are 68 I couldn’t help thinking that it is all well and good for the current crop of wealthy and to be frank bloody greedy self serving politicians to make the decision safe in the knowledge it won’t affect them –

– but what the hell are they thinking.

And more importantly what do they think – if they do at all – about the older generation and the wider impact of saying they will have to work on almost into their seventh decade.

Has anyone heard the current Government discuss the impact on families and society of the decision?

In fact has anyone even heard of there being a serious in depth and detailed policy debate on the issue of what the older generation contribute to society?

The problem of course is that as soon as anyone mentions the contribution of the older generation politicians jump on it and set about turning it into a discussion to cause inter – generational strife.

Well it and they should in my view be ignored because this isn’t about the younger v older generation and the economic – who will pay for it – argument.

It is about what the impact it will have on on all generations and the wider society.

Yes there is a financial cost but as we constantly hear on a daily basis that the social care services looking after vulnerable people of all ages is in crisis not only because of cuts in funding but also even more essentially because of the lack of carers and qualified social workers.

And yet people are still being cared for so the question is who is picking up the shortfall.

Well according the Office of National Statistics it is being taken up by older women and men – grandparents in many cases who have retired – who are now ’employed full time’ in looking after and caring not only for their own families but also for friends.

The current number of these ‘older carers’ is 5.3million and increasing as life expectancy is also increasing though recent data seems to show that life expectancy ages have plateaued. 

What is a problem however and I speak as someone who within the next 18 months will enter my seventh decade is that my friends fall generally into two groups, those who have good health in-spite of their age and those who are beginning to have complex, acute and chronic health issues.

The result of which is that those in good health are spending an increasing amount of their older life under the immense stress and pressure of having to look after their husband, wife, partner or friends – and this is not a gender issue as it once was – men and women are equally involved in the ‘caring’ of others.

What I find amazing and gives me confidence in the innate goodness of people is that they do it willingly and don’t complain.

Which is what politicians know and rely on and what allows them to make the decisions they do safe that people will not allow their family and friends to suffer neglect.

The question is what does it say about those who claim to be in politics to make life better for the very people they are willing to so easily neglect and ignore?

So older people looking after older people then – so what’s the problem?

Well the problem is that in many cases the older generation aren’t just stepping in to pick up the social care shortfall brought about by Government Policy but are also -and in many cases at the same time – looking after their grandchildren allowing their own children to work.

Cuts in programmes such as Sure Start by the current Government and in nursery places means that grandparents are increasingly looking after children either full time at home or in taking them to and collecting them from school.

Of course they love it – grandparents, or at least in my experience are more tolerant and committed to their grandchildren than they were to their own children.

OK – that’s a bold over generalisation but most parents will be able to relate to the difference they see in how their parents act towards their grandchildren than to them when they were kids themselves.

Incidentally am I the only one who thinks that when put into the context of having worked, as many of the older carers have for 50 years and paid income tax and National Insurance for the whole of that time £7,000 isn’t all that much.

Increasing the age at which people can retire may on the face of it sound economically sound but here’s the rub – 

Many of the current older people who are looking after other vulnerable or sick family members or friends, and who are supporting their children by looking after their grandchildren are able to do so only because they have retired and are receiving their £7,000 a year state pension.

Increasing the age at which they receive the pension will make the future older people unable to step into the breach which raise the question of who will take on the roles?

The reality is that decisions taken today need to take into account the impact they will have in thirty and forty years time.

Politicians of course are only concerned with what is going to get them re-elected every five years in the full knowledge that the problems the decisions they are taking today will not be theirs to resolve when the full impact comes home to roost.



But nevertheless it is the reality of modern politics and the issue of older workers having to keep going into their seventies is one that highlights just how poor current decision and policy making is in Westminster.

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