Death comes to all of us as the saying goes, whether by design or an accident of evolution. Death is not our only enemy. There is also the machine called capitalism, which both builds and blocks the future. As it mobilises resources to accumulate economic value, the potential for liberation unfolds in terms of technological advancement—including new drugs and treatments that extend our life-spans significantly. But so does the human cost of its economic imperatives: costs that extend into an old age of isolation and poverty for too many people. Capitalism might acknowledge the existence of inequality, but not the degree to which this system thrives on it, nor the responsibility to attend to those who are rendered more vulnerable to poor health, low education, poverty and crime—facts that are falsely attributed to personal as opposed to structural failings. The mismatch between the promise of an extended life and the reality of declining living standards in old age forms a central dilemma of contemporary capitalism. This is a sad reflection of the state of capitalism. It seems like the dog-eat-dog world has claimed any sense of meaning and purpose that people may have otherwise had.
The fear of ageing might be greater than a fear of death, and for good reason. Physical decline is increasingly accompanied by the loss of those ingredients that make up a meaningful life: family, friends, social networks, experiences, accomplishments, recognition and knowledge.
Faced with the prospects of at least 35 per cent of the country being over 65 before the end of the century, a rapidly diminishing population, and the need to recruit more immigrant labour, the Japanese government has expressed concerns about its inability to pay off the country's rising debts.
As if things weren't hard enough for the government, a peculiar psychological condition called Hikikomori has reduced the future workforce in Japan by a further one million people and rising. Characterised by social withdrawal and a poor sense of self, Hikikomori appears to be the response of many young Japanese to the acute stress that’s brought on by the less than satisfying prospects of modern day capitalism and its lack of provision for a meaningful existence. By ‘meaningful’ they include the possibilities of enjoying outdoor pursuits, since many remain in their homes for periods that range from six months to several years and never venture out.
Under conditions like these, the gift of youthfulness may no longer be so attractive, or perhaps young people simply dread the reality of the alternative: of ageing and losing control, of entering the realm of the forgotten. Better nutrition, environmental improvements, and medical advances have greatly increased the chances for most people in Japan and elsewhere in the West to live considerably longer lives, but there has been no corresponding advancement in terms of their long-term quality of life: the prospects of longevity don’t coincide with the prospects for people’s future happiness. As the late Jenny Diski put it, “Old, lonely, unwanted, invisible...we see them repeatedly on the television news, dying of solitude and neglect, even in the crowded day room of a care home... I can’t think of anything about the reality of ageing which improves a person’s life.”
It has increased dramatically in recent years—up by around fifteen per cent among the over fifty-fives in Britain, for example, and standing at a thirty-year high in the USA. Capitalism articulates the meaning of ‘independence’ in the language of market fundamentalism, showing the ideal form of individual behaviour to be competitive, autonomous, possessive, self-reliant, self-sufficient and self-interested—or as greedy, grasping and egregious if you prefer. Community is more or less disregarded, and dependency is equated with sickness or inadequacy. Not many people want to live longer if they not only have to live in pain but in poverty as well.
Around 20 per cent of the older UK population live in poverty, and their plight is intensified by the infirmities that are associated with old age, and by older people’s increasing dependence on diminishing resources of quality elder care in an age of austerity and budget cuts. In the USA it is 48% of seniors living in poverty who cannot afford housing, and more than that in some states, California it is 56% of seniors. Life without money to pay your bills is not a happy one. You are constantly under pressure to get enough income to meet the high cost of everything. And going without food is often an issue due to it being the only place you can cut and still keep the ultilities on and keep the rent paid.
There used to be a place for older people back when several generations lived under one roof. The elders could do child care, do some housekeeping, as well as participate in the emotional life of the family. With the nuclear family, they are cut loose to fend for themselves, perhaps to be placed in an eldercare facility. They serve no purpose. Elders should not be isolated from other generations coming up. They can perform valuable tasks, each person in his/her own way. Society must find ways to bring together children, those in their middle years, and other elders so they can converse, interact, create together, and--even--ease the exit of the elderly from this world. The point is that elderly people can contribute to the well-being of society, all members benefiting from including them in the life of the community.
The proper response to ageing should be to work on strategies that liberate time for creative pursuits, build community networks that are antagonistic to profit and conducive to shared caring, cultivate resources for regeneration, and enhance the quality of life for everyone. In other words, to guarantee a social order beyond capitalism that allows human beings to flourish however old or young they are. The only way any of those ideas will ever be implemented is through a socialist revolution. There's no way the one-percent class will retract its blood-sucking tentacles and stand aside without social revolution. Living longer truly means nothing if you aren't really "living" and you're existence is one of constant insecurity.
Living with the 1% in power gives new meaning to "The Walking Dead."
This insane profit-based system must end. Capitalism determines human worth on the basis of income/employment status. The elderly poor and the disabled are of no practical use to us. If they are not rich, or not of current use to employers, what purpose do they serve. Having enough money to continue being relevant in our capitalist society is the only way to maintain any dignity in old age because money talks no matter what age.
Taken from here