BBC Newsnight Ageing population

Below a contribution from Kata  (63). I did not see the programme and am appalled by the BBC coverage of important issues and Newsnight choice of commentators. For Wolff’s care4care scheme see blog “Social Care in the home” that I posted in November 2011. 

With the news, according to a recent UN report that older people are the fastest growing age group of all, BBC Newsnight last week featured an item on the issue of how to manage old age in the 21st Century.

The UN Report estimated that worldwide there will be in excess of 1 billion 60 year olds by 2022, and 2 billion by 2050.
Whereas in most developing countries, young people are brought up knowing they will be expected to care for older family members, these days in developed countries, this is largely considered to be the responsibility of the State.

A studio discussion followed with Paxman in the chair, featuring Prof Heinz Wolff – founder of Care4Care scheme – George Monbiot, Environmentalist/political activist, with Prof Calestous Juma of Harvard University contributing via video link from the USA.

Care4Care is the ‘brainchild’ of Prof Wolff which he claims offers a solution to the challenge of caring for the increasingly elderly UK population. The rationale is that people should volunteer to care for others, for say 4/5/6 hours per week, in exchange for care when they themselves are older and require care. Care hours will be ‘banked’ to be used in the future. Evidently, there is currently a pilot scheme underway on the Isle of Wight and Wolff hopes that by 2015, there will be one million people doing this.

In response to Paxman’s query re who will ensure that the person now caring will receive it in the future, Wolff conceded that the next generation must be as keen as the present one to provide care. But what if they don’t WANT to, asked Paxman. The Professor expounded further that they simply MUST want to,or they will ‘die in the streets and won’t get there bottoms wiped!’ (The only reference in the discussion to the nitty-gritty of providing personal care!) Paxman looked pretty incredulous at this point!

Over at Harvard University, Prof Juna referred to technological innovations, such as robotics, being employed in the care of older people. Evidently in Denmark and Japan robots are being used to provide home care. So much for the human touch!

Monbiot argued that a whole raft of measures will be necessary regarding the provision of care, and that robots alone won’t suffice. According to him, we must face the pain and start planning now for the coming demographic downturn. Migration would be a factor, i.e. bringing in young carers from developing countries that would not be going through these demographic changes just yet.

Prof Wolff was emphatic that having young carers from overseas caring for older people in the UK would not work. He gave the example of a young Polish student caring for an ‘old lady’ could not work as there would be ‘no empathy’ and therefore it would not be viable. Paxman, quite rightly, pointed out that surely this was already happening with lots of workers from overseas providing care in the care sector in this country!

Young people will be required to supply the funds/care/labour that older people will require. Older people will be a ‘demographic burden’ which some people will have to service.

The issue of resentment of older people was raised. Wouldn’t young people resent older people, despite it not being their fault that they were living longer? According to Monbiot, young people will be required to supply the funds/care/labour that older people will require. Older people will be perceived as a ‘demographic burden’ which some people will have to service. Monbiot stated that he fully expects to be hated and seen as having not only ‘screwed up the planet’ but become a huge economic burden, should he survived long enough to be an ‘old crock’ ( it did not seem to occur to him that this was a very ageist and insulting term!) The situation will be very politically challenging, he concluded.

Wolff disagreed, he believes that many people will make provision for their old age, while others will be ‘feckless’ and will have a rough time of it. It did not seem to occur to him that contrary to being ‘feckless’, many people are not in a financial position to make provision for old age, they are living from day-to-day.
Further evidence, in my opinion, that he lives in a middle-class bubble which eschews class differentials. One point he made which I concur with is that as a society we need to put as much effort into providing for people towards the end of life as we do for the upbringing of children.


1 thought on “BBC Newsnight Ageing population

  1. it doesn’t have to be all this or all that…a mixture of state provision and family/friends support would do the trick. the other question is: how many older people really need care? what are the statistic? and to say that we are a burden has become today’s mantra, in the press and the mouths of the younger generation. it is a well known mechanism that in time of crisis we need a scapegoat! time to revolt and show them what we are made of! wild old goats unite and fight you have nothing to lose but your horns!

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