Written by Evelyn Matthews, Digital Mum
Doom, gloom and more doom.
The newspapers love it, the politicians, the statistician’s its everywhere we look, the population is aging. How will we cope?
With over 65s now outnumbering the under 16s in the UK the dependency ratio looks like it is increasing. There are 4 people working for every pensioner currently in the UK, by 2035 that number is expected to fall to 2.5, by 2050 to just 2 and with over 8 million 80 + year olds living in the UK by 2050 .
Obviously these are projections and are not set in stone, things could change however I think we can be fairly certain that as a nation we are getting older.
We are also less likely to have decent pensions, less likely to have families -1 in 4 women born in 1970s will not have children and as many carer’s are children of elderly this is going to put additional strain on society.
The current spending on the NHS, pension, and social care is already under strain. With such a forecasted increase in population the current spend is unsustainable.
So no money, no pensions, no healthcare , no space in homes, no families . The list goes on so we have to change our mind-sets towards the situation, as current assistance isn’t going to make the grade.
Whilst there has been progresses in science and technology which have radically increased life expectancy many social institutions continue to operate in the same way as they have since 1950s.
The burden as so many people like to call it, including key figures like Jeremy Hunt will only be valid if we fail to restructure society and the institutions and we must.
Our first priority is to health, as if we can keep that then life overall is just going to be better. The more we can do for ourselves the happier we will be. Prevention and education. Loneliness is worse than smoking 13 cigarettes a day. As a society we must start being aware of this as we are all going that way – there is no one who is going to get away without ageing unless they die young which frankly isn’t a great alternative.
We need to change everything about the way we react to ageing, we need to offer support, respect and encouragement to this community, as fiscally it may become harder and harder to do so. We tend to throw money at situation when it is almost too late.
If people are healthier they will require less medical care, emphasis should be on heavily subsidised sports access for older people, education on healthier eating, promoting activities that encourage people to get outside, meet others.
The concept of retiring has to become redundant eventually too as there are fewer of the jobs for life which give you the security in your old age. Society doesn’t work like this anymore, the job landscape has changed so fundamentally with freelance, contract work and people often changing careers. Working for 40 years then sitting on your butt for 10 is not really sustainable – particularly as you are likely to be sitting on butt a lot longer now.
There is change afoot though there are some brilliant organisations out there which are saying that it’s not about being put out to grass, our final section of our life is just as important as the others.
And the baby boomers are leading the start of the revolution to see our last stage of life as fulfilling. Though these are the lot that just got away with having a decent pension, so they are cluttering the doorways of the exclusive gyms and sweeping up all the cheap mid term holiday deals to the Caribbean. But they serve their purpose, they are making the way, looking after themselves, setting up businesses, working as consultants and generally carrying on with very fulfilling lives.
Our lot coming up, Gen X we are a bit more screwed financially, not as much as the under 30s ,as a lot of us managed to buy property. However 2 key characteristics of Gen Xs are adaptability and independence. We have to think of a future as not relying on the state or even having a large pot of money with which to squander, we have to think of effective ways to live happily and continue to earn and contribute to society. We must protect ourselves from ill health so that far from being in an incapacitated state we have vitality by focusing our lives on nurturing large social networks, exercising, eating well and feeding our minds …
We don’t want to be put in an old peoples home. We shall club together buy a large property somewhere cheaper than the south east with a group of friends and maybe start some illicit old peoples raves up and down the country!
The revolution must happen and welfare support must adapt accordingly.