There are among us people that have ‘been around the block’, that is experienced, seen, or had to do things that on balance you prefer to file away in the file marked ‘closed do not disturb’.
It’s the luck of the draw I suppose although it does seem there are people who just sail through life, appearing to have it all, no particular worries, never having seen or experienced something unpleasant. The evidence of that is all around us; a couple of generations that, in the main, have an expectation that all is well in the world and when something out of the ordinary happens are devastated or horror stricken on one hand or quick with faux emotion and virtue-signalling on the other, while actually contributing nothing but hot air or answers from the safety of their keyboard.
Take Kenneth and Margaret for example. Ken retired years ago aged 55 on a good civil service package and Margaret three years later from her job as HoD at a comprehensive school in one of the Midlands Shire county towns. No particular worries, both only children themselves, their parents (or ‘aged Ps’ as they used to refer to them) died some years ago “which was a bit traumatic at the time as we’d sold up and moved to sunnier climes, but you know we kept in touch giving them a ring once a month or so just to make sure they were OK, and when they both moved into a retirement home – arranged by the social services who were ‘brilliant’ – that took a load off our minds, anyway they eventually left us and actually there was quite a bit of money left in the ‘pot’ which came in useful when we decided to move back here – well the health care wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be where we were and to be honest we were getting a bit bored with the ex-pat life and let’s face it we’re not as young as we were.”
Back, as it happens, to life in Audi Avenue, St. Mary in the Wold. Not quite the same as it was 30 years ago perhaps but still pretty good. “We’ve no worries really. We hear that education and decent long term jobs can be a problem for some but our two have done well for themselves. Amelia and her partner Joshua live in Brussels and he’s got a good job in a law firm, and Daniel is running his own little business supplying up-market pop art to retailers in London and his partner Lesia is doing ever so well with her internet business working from home. She’s much younger than he is, but a dear little thing and Connor, her lad from a previous partner, is a lively 10-year-old with behavioural problems, always up to mischief and into the latest gizmo. With our help they have just bought a beautiful detached house on a development outside one of the expanding villages near to the Cotswolds.
I see these people on a daily basis, nice law-abiding people who worry about ‘climate change’, the future of the BBC (such a shame if that goes), disappointed that this government of which they had such high hopes is going ahead with HS2, banning liquid fuel cars, gas central heating and they can’t imagine how they will manage in the winter without the homely effect of their wood burning stove in the lounge.
And so they go on, never a mention about the things that worry people who didn’t by choice or opportunity have the advantage of an early retirement package complete with a final salary enhanced pension, or aged ‘Ps’ who did them the favour of leaving them a house to sell or the residue of their lifetime earnings or savings.
But there are clouds on the horizon. Well actually an elephant sized problem in the room that they or their children have given little thought to. You won’t find it mentioned by the BBC, neither will a 17-year-old be given access to the world media and leaders to talk about it, no ‘shock horror probe’ stories in the main stream media, or politicians pontificating on some show case T.V programme, no ‘Question Time’ yet it has the propensity to cost them and nation dear, could cost more in real terms than the NHS and foreign aid combined. The question is “how are we going to deal with and pay for the problem of the aging baby boomers?” because, like the poor (and that’s another elephant in the room) the aged – active or not – are always going to be with us, and unmissed and unspoken is a further question, how do we cope not only with the aging population, but also an aging population of first and second generation immigrants from different cultures? Who in the main still have extended families and who are ‘looked after’ and often live with them, people the majority of which consecutive governments have invited here since the 1960s.
A question you may well ask, but I can’t see any progress towards sensible or rational answers being given by highly paid civil servants, or highly paid celebrities who generally have the answer to the world problems (usually without doing anything constructive themselves), politicians mouth the usual platitudes, set targets – apparently obstructed, we are now told, by mandarins who either don’t agree or are so incompetent it’s difficult to see how they continue in employment, along with the media and vested interests who all shout the same old tired mantra, ‘money, money, money’, always more money. But doesn’t it go further than that? Isn’t there a moral aspect to all this? It seems to me there is.
It’s more years than I care to remember when, wearing a uniform, the colour of which is now immaterial, I found myself with a colleague in an Accident and Emergency department (then still known as ‘casualty’ by older members of the community). It was a Saturday afternoon in late November, wet, cold and miserable. The place was packed with 50 or more patients and their friends or families. Some were in pain and some frightened. In this drab, worn-out, not particularly nice, waiting room a large TV was on the wall tuned to some football match or other and a large electronic sign said: ‘Waiting time three hours.’ Nursing staff were busy and harassed and the mood in the waiting area was not particularly relaxed, far from it, which is something that people who tell you how good the NHS was 30 years ago need to remember and contrast with the NHS, with all its faults, of today.
But to continue, we were asked to take a lady to a community hospital some 25 miles away. Although we didn’t know it at the time the lady was suffering from serious dementia and kept repeating the same sentences; very distressing for her accompanying relatives who had reached acute distress themselves. Anyway, we did as we were tasked, and by the time we arrived at the destination she had calmed down a little. Up to the ward we trooped, being met by the ward sister who marched out to meet us and in front of patients – including ‘ours’ – made the comment that has stayed with me down the years. “Great, another load of old rubbish you have brought us from the General.”
It took a great deal of self-control for me to deal with that comment and we left as soon as possible. Two days later, taking an elderly gentleman, well into his 70s on a stretcher to a high dependency unit at another hospital, we were met by some officious ‘health care professional’ who looked at the patient and said: “Are you 03041910?” This time I bit. “No mate he’s got a name and I suggest you use it.”
This sort of callous behaviour was far from rare then and something I experienced again decades later when, on several occasions, close relatives were treated to the same display of unprofessional behaviour by supposedly caring professional staff. Thank goodness though they are far outnumbered by kind, competent and professional staff. How vulnerable people are treated exercises my view of public sector staff, whether that be emergency services or those from other agencies. They may or may not be isolated incidents although to be honest, I fear not but perhaps somebody would like to explain how a vulnerable person copes when treated in this way, particularly if they do not have relatives or friends to look after their interests and maybe their welfare.
Vulnerable people, older or not, pass unnoticed by many on a daily basis. Everywhere I go ‘they’ will be there, some well dressed, others not so, in shops, libraries, the cinema, cafes and places where we all congregate. Who are they? The active or not so active elderly, that’s who. The retired ‘boomer’ generation that grew up with the expectations that you could do what you wanted when you wanted, a generation that changed so much but changed so little.
Part 2 will appear here tomorrow.