‘Bed-blocking’; ‘house-hogging’; creating pension-scheme black holes by living too long; spoiling our grandchildren; inflicting funeral expenses on our ‘loved ones’; guilty of ‘generational injustice’ – even worse, voting for Brexit – the ‘ageing population’ is subject to a drip-drip of negativity that if directed at any other category would count as hate crime. And according to When I’m 64, a report from the think tank International Longevity Centre-UK and the residential property management company FirstPort, older people are spending an increasing number of retirement years in poor health; apparently, life expectancy inequality has been growing while the growth in pensioner income has been stalling.
Meanwhile the Budget failed to mention the growing cuts in elder care while abolishing stamp duty for first-time house-buyers, apparently to appease younger voters.
Since we are all getting older, ‘ageing population’ really means ‘aged population’; but since the immediate post-war period (not from 1945 to 1965, as some have suggested) that produced those selfish Baby Boomers, the birth rate has slumped. Any subsequent birth-blips have resulted from immigrants filling employment gaps and it is doubly ironic that the ‘ageing population’ is blamed for creating pressure on the NHS while the role of uncontrolled immigration is ignored.
We are all living longer, thanks to better air quality, and declines in heavy industry and smoking; however, the equalisation of male and female lifespans – the result of greater female participation in the workforce – is one equality aspect that modern feminists are reluctant to discuss. The fact that more people are alive for longer has prompted the population control movement to call for birth restrictions, when not enough children are being born.
With more people leaving the workforce every year than entering it, the tax-take for funding public services will continue to fall. Rather than admit this, however, governments issue health warnings about obesity, lack of exercise and alcohol consumption, implying that we are fat, lazy drunks, responsible for over-taxing the health services. But while urging some to change their behaviour, the State funds surgery and life-long hormone ‘treatments’ for transsexuals, as well as ‘lifestyle’ medication to treat burgeoning sexually transmitted diseases, including enormously expensive drugs to prevent the development of HIV in those ‘at risk’. Apparently, sexual activity is essential to the preservation of life; eating and drinking are not.
Founded in 1948, the NHS aimed to clear the backlog of ill-health but also inadvertently changed behaviour. Prevention, self-care and traditional remedies declined, and minor complaints escalated into illnesses requiring antibiotics, leading in turn to antibiotic resistance. People used to manage their own lives, but now they have to be managed; in a welfare state, the poor are expensive, and over-medication has turned the elderly into the ‘complex cases’ blamed for overstretching the NHS.
The NHS was meant to care for the weakest and was the Left’s proudest achievement; but the self-appointed champions of the weak have demoted the really weak in their hierarchy of victimhood, failing to challenge cultural attitudes that have shifted from valuing the wisdom and experience of old age to regarding old people as embarrassing burdens. The Left-wing weakness for power means that they chiefly admire victims who ‘fight back’ against oppression – notably criminals, those who assert their sexuality with ‘pride’, and burly, bearded ‘child’ migrants. In so doing they have inadvertently bestowed a virtuous gloss on eugenics – the sinister view that human beings should be valued for their monetary contribution to society.
While demanding endless expenditure on health care for all and sundry, the Marxists flatter the young because they are more politically suggestible – unlike the elderly, with their ‘outdated’ views on sexual diversity and Brexit, who can advance the Marxist agenda only by dying off. Step forward the population control movement, which has helped to engineer the birth dearth by promoting the ‘right to choose’, thus creating the ‘ageing’ problem, and which also promotes the ‘right to die’. And yet killing off the old is not only unethical but makes no economic sense; engineering the population collapse by forcing women into paid work – part of the scheme to depress births – has yielded short-term economic benefits but in the long term will be ruinous. Eliminating the elderly would deprive society of their memory and experience; as Santayana reminds us, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Missing from gloomy prognostications on the ‘problem of ageing’ is the recognition that older people’s needs help drive the economy by providing employment for younger people; they also do part-time and voluntary work – not to mention free babysitting and the Bank of Mum and Dad. They have freely cared for others (and in some cases still do); but when they need care, suddenly they are selfish burdens ruining the lives of the young.
Jean-Paul Sartre said ‘hell is other people’, but a society where ‘other people’ are seen as obstacles and burdens becomes hell on earth. A humane society is judged by the way it treats its most vulnerable members; a human society is one which recognises that we all need each other.