This guest blog was contributed by Rob Greig, Chief Executive at the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi)
The area of government policy that has continually depressed me the most (and I’m talking successive governments here) is that around older people and ageing. What we at NDTi call the ‘demographic dialogue’ of public policy and the media creates a culture whereby older people are seen as a problem and a burden on society.
Read almost anything from government policy, think tanks or the national press and you will see older people being described negatively. They are ‘bed blockers’ in hospitals, creating a ‘financial precipice’ in public finances and the cause of a pension system crisis that means younger people will have to work longer. Older people are portrayed as being the cause of problems that government and society have to address.
I beg to differ. There are 3 fundamental flaws in this perception of older citizens:
- It sees older people as primarily passive recipients of services provided by the state or wider society, denying or even discouraging their capacity to continue to give to the communities around them.
- The service and cost modelling is substantially based on an assumption that we will do the same in the future as we have done in the past – rather than explore more innovative options that could change the financial parameters
- It conveniently appears to forget the contributions that people have made to society, through their work, taxes, caring and creativity. Is it too old-fashioned to still think that society may have some obligation in the form of ‘pay-back’ time that should argue against using the language of burden?
I will put the third point to one side as it is primarily influenced by values and opinions and instead focus on the first two – and tell you about Ted.