Paul Burstow is MP for Sutton and Cheam.
All blogs are the views of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Independent Age.
Last summer, Nick Clegg asked me to chair a working group looking at the issues of an ageing society and how Government should respond.
The UK population is living longer and today there are more people over the age of 65 in the UK than there are children under 15. This change is a direct consequence of public policy, of bearing down on preventable deaths. But an unsophisticated debate about the impact of ageing has portrayed this as a disaster. Our everyday language tends to stigmatise, portraying ageing as a threat and older people as burdens hogging resources and hoarding assets. Yet the reality is that we are all ageing, everyday, and the concerns of an ageing population are very clearly issues that must concern every one of us. Whether you’re in your 20s or your 60s it is becoming increasingly clear that we all need to be much more concerned about our health, our wellbeing, our finances, our housing, our pensions, and that, if we neglect these, it will have long term consequences for our own old age, and that of our children.
And as populations age, older people have an even bigger contribution to make in society – as consumers, as employers and employees, as carers, volunteers and civic leaders. Roles, responsibilities and discourses urgently need to change. That is why we welcome Independent Age’s 2030 Vision series of blog-posts this next few weeks; all of which seek to change the terms of debate. We need to actively encourage older people and learn from their skills for the benefit of all. With the rising age of retirement this is more important than ever, but we are missing opportunities to share skills and experience between employees, to ensure continuity of corporate memory and embed the learning of generations. What more should be done to address this?
On pensions, we have protected the incomes of current pensioners and introduced a simpler and more sustainable system for younger generations. The ‘Triple Lock’ has protected the value of the pension and there have been no cuts to means-tested benefits, but this is an area where there is ever increasing debate. What should be our way forward?
On housing we constantly hear that we have a housing crisis, and we do, but current projections suggest that 60% of household growth will be amongst the over-65s. Public policy needs to recognise this, and our goal must now be to increase the supply of adaptable general housing. We also need more innovation in adaptive technologies and design – we need to move away from our associations of ageing with decline and negativity and embrace the opportunities and possibilities – for individuals, communities and the economy. All ideas are welcome.
We need to tackle the current stereotypes on ageing, and realise the potential of an ageing society, and we need your help to do it. Today I am launching an online consultation which seeks views on the issues which our working group have identified as key to planning for our changing demographics. Please follow this link to let us know what you think:https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/W3LNNW9.
What do you think needs to happen to make the UK the best country to grow older in?
What concerns you most about growing older and why?
Please leave us or the blogger a comment below.
Or send us your responses through our consultation response form.