A Pension alone won’t keep our older Citizens safe

    A Pension alone won’t keep our older Citizens safe

    So the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has delivered his fiscal plan, part of which confirmed the government’s pension triple lock pledge, which means that the UK’s elderly population will receive a 10.1 per cent increase in their state pension next April. And that means that older people on the basic rate state pension will receive an increase to around £156.20 a week.

    The move has not been welcomed in all quarters, with some opponents asking why today’s workers have to foot the bill for those who have now retired, particularly those who live in their own homes.

    Well, while some wealthy pensioners won’t need this protection the vast majority will. And the reason it is fair is that today’s pensioners have spent the last 40 or 50 years paying taxes to fund the pensioners who went before them, from the 1970s to now, so why shouldn’t today’s workers do the same? Sure thing, Bernie Eccelstone doesn’t need the triple lock but there are millions in the UK who do. And whether they live in their own homes, rent in the private sector or in social housing the elderly are among the most vulnerable in society.

    Our elders have seen it all before of course; rampant inflation, high interest rates, the 1970s Winter of Discontent (which we might be about to revisit) and, of course, huge food shortages and rationing. But the important point here is that they worked through those difficult times when they were young.

    It isn’t as easy to withstand hardship when age catches up with you and keeping the heating turned off is far more perilous when you are old.

    And life is getting harder for many.

    The world has moved on at a furious pace over the past decade and the digital revolution, while making life and work easier for many of us, has left far too many older people behind. A 2021 report by Age UK has put an end to the myth that the pandemic has driven most older people to move online and the charity warns that if action is not taken quickly, millions of digitally excluded older people will be left behind and their quality of life will suffer. It is so much harder to access services in housing and health for those who aren’t comfortable in the digital world as access to essential goods and services increasingly goes online.

    Age UK’s report found that while 24 per cent of Over 75s in England have increased their online activity this percentage is mainly made up of those who were already using the internet. In the midst of the pandemic 42 per cent of this age group were still non users, mainly those without help from younger family members. Many are physically unable to use a computer or are just not interested in going online.

    This is a far more serious issue than ever before. For those of us who, in the 1980s, had to show our Nan how to use the video recorder, that was a giggle and it didn’t actually matter. But now, the inability to use technology will see an already excluded group in society potentially disappear without trace.

    Age UK is asking for more investment in one-to-one digital skills training and this is an important strand of the UK’s strategy to solve the social care crisis. But there is a palpable lack of confidence in the elderly and there is no sign of an improvement. 59 per cent of those who looked online for health information in 2019 were no longer doing so in 2020.

    The digital revolution is just one of the challenges that old people face and housing providers have a responsibility to help in other areas too, including the age old problem in terms of accessibility; lifts, handrails and barriers. In many sections of society family support is not what it was, so it falls on all of us to look out for the elderly and vulnerable.

    Things are tough for countless younger people, of course they are, but extreme temperatures, health issues and isolation are much more dangerous for the elderly in our society and they deserve our support.

    An extra few quid in the weekly pension will help, but it is just a tiny part of the answer.


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