Friday, 16 January 2015

Older People Are Not a Separate Entity

Today’s BBC Breakfast debate (@BBCBreakfast #LivingLonger) comes on the same day as the news that Saga will no longer be providing state funded care services ( Daily Telegraph - and together they show the need for a more immediate, national rethink on care services in the UK.

Sometimes, contributors to the debates on care for older people seem to forget that, one day, they will be older too. Older people are not a separate entity within society, they are an integral part of society. We have to remember that many of those we label as elderly were also labelled as “rebellious youth” back in the 1950s and many of those with the “youth” label today will be the “older people” in 60 or so years. Too often there is a focus on “what to do about older people” rather than the recognition that many people that socially created label have, in fact, contributed hugely to the society that they are now dependent on for support.

Society also has to recognise that this is an issue that is relevant NOW, not further done the line as Governments like to portray it. Many older people need support and help today but, unfortunately they are being faced with reduced services because of cuts in spending as a result of a recession that was really no fault of theirs!

A part of the debate focuses on individual planning for the future, and while such things may sound good it can be idealistic rather than realistic because individuals have to cope with the ups and downs of real life. Those over 65 now have lived through many recessions (including two double dip recessions), annual inflations rates of up to 26% (1975), as well as periods of high unemployment in the country. Very often people are forced to live in the financial now rather than being able to plan for a future that is a long way off. We have seen a dramatic rise in the use of food banks over the last couple of years, have many of those forced into this can, realistically, put money aside for their needs in older age?

So while individuals can take some responsibility for planning for their future, government and society must recognise that this is not always possible and there must be a safety net to ensure individuals are sufficiently supported as they need it when they age.

Older people are not an isolated section of society, we are all older people in the making and when we talk about the needs of older people in society we are talking about our future too. The questions should not be about how society deals with an ageing population but about what would I want if that were me right now because that will be me in the future.