Sunday, March 04, 2012

Re-paying loyalty?

A generation of pensioners face lives of poverty and loneliness, without enough money even to heat their own homes, says the first report on life for the over-60s in austerity Britain.

According to the Age UK report Agenda for Later Life, to be published this week. Sixteen per cent, or 1.8 million, of people over state pension age are living in poverty; 3.3 million are unable to warm their homes (an increase of more than half a million in the past two years); and 800,000 are not receiving the care they need. An estimated one million over-65s are malnourished.

More than 30 per cent of over-65s said they find it hard to get treatment from their nearest hospital, nearly a quarter struggle to get service from a bank, and 6 per cent leave their house once a week or less, the report reveals. More than 60 per cent of people think age discrimination is widespread in Britain.

Age UK's charity director, Michelle Mitchell, called the report "sobering" and said it will "stop people in their tracks". "Almost two million older people are living in poverty, and millions more are living below the breadline," she added.

Capitalism's reward for a lifetime of drudgery and wage-slavery is to end up surviving upon a pittance.

The report describes how the older population is the fastest-growing, with 14.1m people over 60. This number is greater than the under-16s. While the number of people aged over 85 has grown by 300,000 since 2005. Some now argue that there are “too many old people” or “people living too long. The “too many old people” doom merchants are making the same mistake as Malthus made two hundred years ago with his (completely wrong) predictions about “overpopulation”: they are ignoring that productivity also increases over time, so that whereas there are indeed proportionately less workers engaged in production they are able to produce proportionately more wealth. It is the increasing productivity that will go on between now and when existing workers retire that will mean that society, even capitalist society, will be able to support the expected increased proportion of retired people in the population. There is in principle no problem.

The real question facing workers is whether they should continue to support the whole non-productive superstructure of capitalist society when, if it were to go, along with capitalism itself, how we they going to survive in old age wouldn’t be a perpetual worry, since in socialism every member of society, including the old, would have free access, as a matter of right, to what they needed to live and enjoy life.

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