Whilst away on holiday I casually looked at what the BBC was reporting on one day and nearly blew a proverbial gasket. Lord Bichard had been floating the idea that pensioners might be forced to carry on working within the community to justify their cash.
This demonstrated two things to me. The first that his Lordship has very little grasp of the realities of life faced by most people in retirement and that our decision makers and opinion formers come from a very limited gene pool of people who, like Lord Bichard are out of touch with the real world.
So let me declare an interest straight away. Next January I will be 60 so thoughts of pensions and retirement are in my mind. Erica, of course, hopes that I never retire. The thought of me being around a lot of the time would surely send her to an early grave! I too hope that I will never ‘retire’. I have spent all my life actively doing things and I don’t want to stop. There all sorts of things that I could do that would be valuable to the community and helpful to me. I could:
Volunteer as a helper at a local museum or library
Become a school governor
Help children learn to read.
Assist with a local charity shop
In fact there is an almost endless list of things that could be done and fortunately millions of older people already do them. Doing things to help society is not a new idea millions people have been don for years. Without old codgers like me the third sector and many other activities would simply cease to exist.
But and it is a big but two things need to stay in place to enable me to do this:
1. I need to stay healthy. What could do would obviously be limited if I did not enjoy reasonable health. Unfortunately many people are not that lucky. They have been bashed about by their jobs; by their misfortunes; by living in poor housing; in fact they have been worn down by a life style thats so far from the enervating lives of our ‘leaders’ that the might well live on another world.
2. I need tut the needs of my family first. Many people in their 60s and early 70s are deeply involved in caring for both their own elderly relatives and the child care needs of their children’s children. Family life would fall apart in many cases if Grandma and Grandpa did not happily do things for their own families.
So the question now turns to the role of Lord B and his ilk. If so much of what he wants to float hypothetically is already being done in practice why doesn’t he know about it? Has he no eyes to see the dependance that charity shops on the young elderly? Perhaps he has never been in one! Certain the ‘workforce’ will look very different in the posh shops that he can afford on his senior civil servants pension and daily HoL handouts.
Does he not know of the way that the elderly are the lynchpin of so many families? Well possibly not. In the sort of society he mixes in they an afford to hire in help for their young and old or send out the young and old to be cared for by others.
So why do we listen to these people withe their appalling lack of knowledge of contemporary society? Who puts people like this on supposedly influential committees? He was hardly a staggering success when he advised Labour on efficiency but the committees appoint the committees and our lack lustre national press input a possible headline in preference to thinking through difficult issues for themselves.
So here’s my suggestion. If you want to know the true state of the elderly in our society and their potential for involvement don’t guess from a position of ignorance just go out and ask the elderly. In fact apply that to all aspects of society. Down with the Great and Good who are really only the self-important. Get out of Westminster, close down all think tanks run by post pubescent teenagers and let decision makers relate to ordinary people who can bring common sense to bear issues that seem to baffle the overly clever.
Power to the people! The Poplar Liberation Front were right!