Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Respect for the Elderly? Your Twilight Years Could Be Darker Than You Think, Says Clarissa Satchell

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Respect for the Elderly? Your Twilight Years Could Be Darker Than You Think, Says Clarissa Satchell

Article excerpt

The historian Albert Toynbee once said: "A society's quality and durability can best be measured by the respect and care given its elderly citizens." If there is but a grain of truth in his sentiments, British society must be facing disintegration, according to care users and charities lobbying to protect some of society's most vulnerable members.

For those with a well-funded pension or lots of savings, growing old can be a comfortable experience, with the best possible care provided by private homes. The poorest members of society may not get to live the life of Riley, but at least their care is supposed to be funded by local councils. But for a growing number of Britons not rich enough to join the P & O cruise set but with just enough assets to fail the means test, ageing involves watching their savings disappear at an alarming rate.

A former nurse practitioner, Jennifer Clark, 65, is severely disabled as a result of a brain haemorrhage and requires two carers to help her out of bed and wash her, a nurse to dress her wounds, a carer to prepare meals, and two carers to lift her into bed. Bromley Council splits the monthly cost with her, but Jennifer's half rose from [pounds sterling]588 to [pounds sterling]665 in April and she expects a further increase in November. "I've had a rise of 10 per cent while my state pension rose by 2 per cent. I am fortunate to have some occupational pension, but I have a house and the bills that go with it. I feel bitter; I rarely used the NHS when I was younger and now, when I have no choice, they punish you for being prudent." The really galling bit is that not all her fellow citizens are treated the same way. "I know of a couple in Scotland who have the same care funded," she says.

For those unwilling to retire north of the border, where the Scottish Executive provides funding for everyone, means testing will lead to a draining of the savings accounts for anyone who has more than [pounds sterling]16,000. …

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