Oldies of the world unite

Which is the greater threat, ageism or grey power as we boomers slide into retirement? It depends on what age you are I suppose. “The age police are facing a policy crisis” says Mike White in the Guardian in terms which tell you which side he’s on. Taking sides seems to be the name of the demographic game, as the recession appears to set the young and old at each other’s throats in a competition for scarce resources. Good then to see sobersides John Appelby of the Kings’ Fund, (incidentally a reformer of NI’s NHS) A and not yet an oldie himself, offering words of comfort for the ageing who fear the shortening horizons of the future.

“By 2041, the over-80s will make up 8.8% of the total UK population – compared with 4.5% now. While those of (more or less) working age left to support these people (20-65 year olds) will shrink as a proportion – from 60% to 55% – this reduction is not huge and it will not happen overnight.
Overall, the NHS needs around 1.5% extra real-terms funding every year to cope with the additional healthcare needs arising from all demographic change. Social care costs will also increase. But the point is that while policy and planning decisions will be required, the “burden” of the elderly will be spread over decades and is almost certainly not as huge as implied by the way population change figures are presented.”

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London