Thoughts on the elderly in society


I am feeling pretty old today for four reasons:

Firstly, I am writing this in bed and feeling very old and fed up with myself

Secondly, Erica has just gone off to do some things as Deputy Lord Mayor with the Alzheimer’s Society and dementia

Thirdly, I have just had the ward profile for Church updated and I see that life expectancy in Church Ward is 83.3 years (so at least another 20 years as a councillor before I retire then!)

Fourthly, well actually there was a fourth one but for the life of me I cannot remember what it was – hence the importance of 2 above!

We all know that our society is ageing. We hear anguished please about the problems that this will cause. Old people will need far more medical help, specialist housing, pensions for longer so in other words we old codgers (I am 61 myself) should be grateful for what we get and shuffle off this mortal coil as soon as possible.

That, you may not be surprised to know, is not my opinion. It wasn’t even my opinion when the shadow of the grim reaper seemed a small blot on a far distant horizon. I believe that the 60+ generation are the glue that holds society together. As I go round my Ward of middle class oldies I see:

  • ·         Lots of people on grandma and grandpa duties
  • ·         School governing bodies with high numbers of retirees
  • ·         Charity shops almost exclusively volunteered in by the active elderly
  • ·         Amenity and residents groups led and maintained by those who are truly in their third age.

At some stage someone did an estimate of how much that would cost if we were paid for this work. I don’t know what the figure was because it is an irrelevant figure. I help look after my grandchildren because it is my pleasure and privilege to do so (well not at 5.30 last Saturday morning it wasn’t!). People serve in all sorts of ways because they have the time to do so; want to keep active and want to use the skills which they have learned throughout a lifetime to continue to contribute to the society they belong to

Things need to change. We do need to think about the financial implications of ageing but the balance sheets have assets as well as liabilities. Pensions are a major worry. Too few people have been unable to build up a decent pension pot. In some cases because they splurged money away on knick-knacks and conspicuous consumption but in most cases there was nothing spare after living costs to put away. This Government has done well in this regard with auto enrolment and the triple local to ensure that pensions do not fall behind wages as they did for almost 25 years.

The biggest question though is the relationship between the elderly and both the community they live in and the families they are part. How do we all plan financially and otherwise for our own future. When is it right to ask others, family and community to help us and when must we at last surrender to the state much control of our lives if we become frail and infirm.

These are questions that we have shied away from. We have put them in the box marked ‘too difficult’ and hoped that they will go away. My friends the elderly will not go away they are here and here to stay for longer and longer. Together we must have a real debate about the future of a society when reaching 90 will be common place and the Queen (or King) won’t be able to afford 100th birthday cards!

PS   YEEEAAAAYYYY I have remembered what the fourth thing was. In fact it was the event that triggered this whole train of thoughts. Tomorrow I will be speaking at the ceremony to award Age Concern Liverpool and Sefton, the Freemanship of the City. What a great organisation this is. It was a real pleasure to put their name forward and support the nomination in council. It will be a lovely evening celebrating the work of this first class organisation. See you at 5 p.m. at the Town Hall folks.

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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