You are currently browsing the daily archive for February 13, 2012.

In October 2011, I posted on the heinous notion mooted by Britain’s coalition government that the elderly should give up their homes to make way for families.

In the early 1990s, newscasts featured many reports of the elderly being ‘bed blockers’ in NHS hospitals.

Today — at home minding their own business — they are called house blockers.

Either way, they are viewed as a problem.

As the old saying goes, we can tell much about a civilisation by the way it treats its elderly.

It’s bad enough that we have been subjected to analysis of the issue of euthanasia in British documentaries and news programmes in the last few months. The subtext is that old people are miserable and it would be an act of mercy to put them out of their misery — for good.

Meanwhile, once again, the Government is advising that the elderly not only give up their homes — but that they should continue to work for a living!

This ‘suggestion’ refuses to die and is one which should be euthanised — pronto.

To any young’uns reading this — including the team who came up with the idea — keep in mind the following points:

1/ The elderly have worked to support the schools you attended and, if you were fortunate enough to have attended university before Labour and Tony Blair brought in tuition fees, those same elderly financed your education.

2/ These elderly have worked since their teenage years, faithfully paying tax. By doing so, they supported local and national government, public sector pensions, the NHS and National Insurance. That’s in addition to their support of schools.

3/ Many of them grew up without the luxuries you take for granted: indoor bathrooms, central heating and washing machines — to name just a few basics.

4/ The eldest of these people fought in the Second World War to defend your freedoms of movement, property owning and pursuit of your dreams.

So, now, after faithfully working, paying taxes and saving to buy a house, they’re supposed to give it up for heaven knows who and move into a poxy flat who knows where?

I don’t think so.

In January 2012, the Telegraph reported (emphases mine) that

Grant Shapps, the housing minister, said councils should offer to help pensioners move to more suitable accommodation to create space for families.

Local authorities would then take over responsibility for maintaining and renting the vacated properties at affordable rates, transferring any profit from the rental income back to the elderly person or their estate. The Government believes the proposal would provide support for the elderly to move without having to sell their homes at a time when there is a shortage of affordable housing for young families.

Research released last year estimated that 25million bedrooms in England were empty, largely because elderly couples do not move out of family homes to smaller properties …

A government-backed pilot scheme run by Redbridge council, in east London, has won support from the Department for Communities and Local Government for helping elderly residents to downsize while retaining ownership of their homes. Mr Shapps told The Daily Telegraph that councils should look to replicate the Redbridge “FreeSpace” project. “For too long the housing needs of the elderly have been neglected,” he said.

Subtext: for too long the elderly have been allowed to do what they like and this must be stopped.

He added:

‘Older people who should be enjoying their homes have watched helplessly as their properties have become prisons

‘With nearly a fifth of our population expected to be over 65 by 2020, radical and urgent change is needed to ensure the nation’s housing needs are met.’

Scary. The words ‘radical and urgent change’ should strike fear into the mind of anyone over 50. That means that if incessant nudging doesn’t work, the Government will pass a law or institute a tax to get what they want.

That’s what’s happened with the smoking ban, which hasn’t stopped progressing. Even if you don’t smoke, you should know that this is the blueprint which many Western (and perhaps other) countries are using for additional government policies. From smoking items in the news every week, a ban on smoking in aircraft, public service advertising and smoking cessation advertising it went to a ban on smoking in public places, to one in most hotel rooms to the demonisation of smokers to the point where employers refuse to hire them.  And that’s not enough, as bans in private homes and private cars could be nearing legislation stage here in the UK.

The tie-in between the two scenarios is the progression from information and support to banning and demonisation. As with smokers, the elderly will be looked down upon for being selfish and greedy as well as being brittle-boned bedroom blockers.

Again, ‘How dare they!’

With an increasingly ageing population, Mr Shapps’s worry (contined from the days of Tony Blair) is the question of who will ‘support’ them. I think the answer will be more immigrants (the excuse used so far), which I may get to in another post.

A continued influx of people creates further burdens on housing, but no matter. Just get the oldies out.

Because the state of our education has declined seriously in the past 20 years, younger people lack the critical thinking skills to imagine how this might play out when — gasp! — they, too, become the demonised elderly.

What then? Forced euthanasia at a certain age? Why not? ‘We need the houses and conservation of water, gas and electricity’. Too far-fetched? Why? Think about it.

Last week, the Telegraph reported:

David Halpern, a senior No.10 aide, said loneliness was a “more powerful predictor” of whether a pensioner would be alive for more than a decade than whether they smoked.

He also suggested that elderly people who did not move to smaller homes were contributing to the shortage of housing in England …

Evidence is now emerging of the dangers associated with elderly people becoming lonely and isolated after retiring.

The increase in the retirement age could lead to a wider change, under plans set out by Mr Halpern, the director of the No.10 Behavioural Insight Team, known as the “nudge unit”.

He heads the government team which has the task of developing ways to change people’s behaviour that do not require legislation or other heavy-handed actions from the state.

In a presentation, Mr Halpern said pensioners should be encouraged to return to work because of the benefits of social interaction for the elderly.

If that weren’t so tragic, it would be funny. Also, where are the jobs going to come from? Our own youth cannot even find employment.

I won’t have been the first person to have read that and thought, ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’.

Speaking of which, here’s a bit of history which predates those infamous concentration camps:

The expression comes from the title of a novel by German philologist Lorenz Diefenbach, Arbeit macht frei: Erzählung von Lorenz Diefenbach (1873), in which gamblers and fraudsters find the path to virtue through labour.[2] The phrase was also used in French (“le travail rend libre!”) by Auguste Forel, a Swiss ant scientist, neuroanatomist and psychiatrist, in his “Fourmis de la Suisse” [“Ants of Switzerland”] (1920).[3] In 1922, the Deutsche Schulverein of Vienna, an ethnic nationalist “protective” organization of Germans within the Austrian empire, printed membership stamps with the phrase Arbeit macht frei. It was adopted in 1928 by the Weimar government as a slogan extolling the effects of their desired policy of large-scale public works programmes to end unemployment. This use of the phrase was continued by the Nazi Party when it came to power in 1933.

Gamblers, fraudsters, ants and the elderly: common denominator — work liberates them all. I cannot add smokers to the list as fewer companies want to hire them.

Why are the elderly like ants? Because work sets them free.

As for the term ‘unit’, it has come to mean not only a department, such as Mr Halpern’s, but also another word for ‘person’. No longer is one necessarily a patient or a claimant, but a ‘unit’. Look for this term to gain more currency and move from officialese into popular parlance.

As people become units, they also become no more significant than ants. If only there were a way for the Government to get ants to pay taxes, our debt and ‘support’ difficulties could be solved in a trice!

Note the connection Halpern makes between smoking and loneliness. Being lonely is worse than smoking, he says. Why make any comparison at all? Should we be so alarmed by the thought of cigarette smoke that we connect it with the supposed loneliness of the elderly?

I doubt whether widows and widowers are all that lonely. A few of them would probably like to have a smoke inside the pub, but that’s gone, so why go out so often? That said, most have children or friends. Most are still thinking, expressive and witty. They are all human beings. Most will seek help when they need it. That includes taking a private decision to sell their house.

In our increasingly communitarian society, becoming reminiscent of the former USSR, the idea of being alone in a house is suddenly anathema. It seems they want people of whatever age to live in cramped housing, which is what would happen if some of these houses were let out to ‘families in need’ (the Government’s phrase).  The Government — Conservative, Labour or Lib Dem — would be so pleased if we all lived in tiny flats and had communal kitchens and baths.  Then, they could have the big properties and sprawling estates — as a number of them do now. Remember who took their holidays at the Soviet dachas for many years: it wasn’t the worker, it was the Party official.  The Communist Party had to give their approval.

And when it comes time for the elderly to sell their houses, will the local councils acquiesce? How much of a say will the actual owner have? After all, they will just be old units. Ants.

Why must we work until we drop? Why can we not take time out to enjoy free time and spend it in our own homes? Why does it necessarily imply loneliness? Many people enjoy living on their own. Some are introverts. Some have pets. Some derive pleasure from tending their own gardens. Others enjoy the company of their neighbours and living in an area which they know and understand. Those who are grandparents enjoy having the extra bedrooms to accommodate family at holiday time. Why is that so wrong?

Most importantly, people have an emotional investment in their homes as well as a financial one. In fact, the emotional attachment and the objects therein evoke comforting memories of continuity, which are infinitely more therapeutic than working.

Moving house is not only expensive but traumatising. It’s one of the top five life-changing experiences, along with death of a loved one and divorce. Yet, Shapps, Halpern and their lot seem to think nothing of forcing — make that, for now, ‘nudging’ — elderly people out of their homes into a tiny box with a low ceiling, small windows and a poky kitchen.

I have so much to say on this subject that I hardly know where to begin. Yet, I’m well over 1700 words at this juncture.

There are only two words which describe demonising the elderly in this way: moral dereliction.  It’s a slippery slope from here.

Tomorrow: Are Britain’s elderly the new kulaks?

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