Family Policy Social Centre

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The Older Generation

Caring for the Elderly

The older generation make up an increasing percentage of Britain’s population and the changing structure of the family unit has had radical consequences on the way older people are viewed in wider society. In previous years it was traditional for grandparents to live with their children and grandchildren, with the children being responsible for the majority of their elder’s care. Today it is extremely rare to find this set-up and it is increasingly left to social services and private care organisations to cater for the old. Nursing and residential homes are expensive and often considered a last resort by elderly people who are more inclined to want to stay at home.

Government statistics suggest that 60% of elderly women and 30% of elderly men now live alone, with loss of a spouse cited as the most common reason for lone living. People living alone at most at risk of being neglected and subjected to abuse; according to research conducted by the National Centre for Social Research, over 227,000 elderly people were neglected or abused in 2006. As well as support from local Government services, charities such as Help the Aged and Age Concern fight for rights for elderly people and offer help and guidance to those in need.

Older People and Modern Society

The breakdown of the family unit has undoubtedly had serious social consequences for the older generation. In times gone by the elderly were considered the most important sector in society and thus received a great deal of respect and admiration by other members of their community. Today, however with rising anti-social behaviour amongst young people, there is a widespread lack of respect for the elderly and they are often preyed upon by opportunist youngsters and bogus salespersons. The Crown Prosecution Service estimates that up to 500, 000 elderly people are at risk of street crime and fraud. There are however, steps being taken to reduce this rate of crime and according to the Crown Prosecution Service, both the police and the courts are keen to deal with this issue with the same ferocity as those related to racial hatred and anti-gay crimes.

Over 50’s Employment

This is a difficult issue for older people who often find they lose out to younger candidates when searching for a job over the age of 50. The Job Centre Plus ‘New Deal 50 plus’ scheme is specifically designed to help the over 50’s find work. In addition to this, this programme also helps to arrange tax credits and pension schemes. Government equal opportunity monitoring is designed to eradicate inequality on the grounds of age as well as sex and race.

Compulsory Retirement at 65

Another contentious issue facing older people is retirement age; currently it is legal for employers to force compulsory retirement at the age of 65, without any redundancy incentive. However, many workers want to carry on working after the age of 65 and with debate centred on how to care for the ageing population at the forefront of contemporary politics, increasing the age of retirement could be a solution for the future. The case for removing the compulsory element of retirement at the age of 65 is being supported by Age Concern and Help the Aged.