Two headlines caught our attention this week, causing us to pause and ask whether policy makers, the media and community at large are approaching ageing from the wrong perspective.
The first story is about the cost of care following the Care Bill entering the House of Commons for its second reading. On Monday the Daily Telegraph reported that older people could spend up to £150,000 before qualifying for a cap on bills. According to the story, this is largely due to the fact that the ‘care cap’ doesn’t cover food and accommodation.
The second story ran in The Daily Mail on Tuesday with the gloomy headline that people born in the 60s and 70s will be poorer than previous generations. It was based on a report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies which claimed workers aged from 34 to 53 will need a large inheritance from their parents to retire comfortably.
Both stories, and the subsequent readers’ comments, implied we need someone to look after us –the Government is obligated to pay for our care (including our accommodation and food costs) while our parents need to give us their money so we can live in the manner to which we’ve become accustomed!
Yet we’re all adults, we’ve all had to make significant decisions throughout our life about ourselves and our family. We’ve earned a living, paid for our own food, accommodation, and living expenses for many years. Why now would we expect to handover this to the State simply because we’re growing older?
We’re not suggesting that support for the most vulnerable in our society should be removed – absolutely not! What we are suggesting is that those who are able to pay for their later life should do so and that it’s time the conversation changed to focus on taking responsibility for our future happiness.
Instead of planning for possible illness, why don’t we encourage people to plan for a life that’s going to make them ‘happier for longer’? It’s much more appealing then telling people how much they need to save in case they end up in a nursing home!
Instead of scaring people with headlines that ultimately promotes a paternalistic system where the Government pays and freedom is forsaken, let’s provide advice on how older people can retain independence, choice and control.
And instead of propping up institutions that are crumbling apart, let’s promote new lifestyle alternatives – like Evermore – that help people to continue doing the things they love, surrounded by people whose company they enjoy.
So rather than looking at ageing and our ageing population as a problem or challenge, let’s look at it as an opportunity to encourage people to plan for happiness. After all, isn’t that what we all ultimately want?