Getting old in an ageing society - why we need a revolution in attitudes


I spoke this morning to the Resolution Foundation, an impressive new think tank focusing on issues facing the low paid. The conference was looking in particular at social care so I chose to focus on ageing and attitudes to old age.

If we continue to stigmatize the old and treat social care as a Cinderella service we are in for a grim time. Over the last five years local authorities have systematically rationed social care to only those with the very highest need. There is virtually no state funded provision focused on maintaining  independence; it is about managing dependence. And this is at a time of rising budgets.

Over the next few years budgets will be squeezed and squeezed again and a crisis-ridden social care sector will be competing with virtually every other public service in it’s pleas for more cash. In  terms of a new funding settlement, the Government has delayed its social care green paper yet again. It is difficult to see what ministers can hope to come up with given that any solution will require more contributions from individuals at a time when we all feel just as squeezed as the state.

Which is why I urged the conference delegates to seize the opportunity provided by the economic crisis, and the soul searching accompanying it, to restate and refresh the argument for a revolution in social attitudes to ageing and the aged

Drawing on new evidence and argument about how human beings operate, what motivates us and what brings us well-being, it is time for us to define the good society as a society where people can look forward to old age. It is time also to recognise that full citizenship involves a understanding and accepting our inter-generational responsibilities (a particular challenge for the resource-guzzling baby boomers) , and that individual well-being cannot be achieved while we view the natural process of getting old with fear and disgust (if you think I am overstating the problem with current attitudes and lives try reading AA Gill’s vivid essay in this week’s Sunday Times). I urged the conference to focus just as much on changing attitudes in society as policies in Government.

These are only the top lines of what I said, if anyone is interested I would be happy to lay out more of the substance later in the week.

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