14 February 2010

Dying beyond your means

There's been a bit of pre-election huffing and puffing this week around care for the elderly in the UK. The facts about the size of the challenge are clear; according to the Office for National Statistics, despite large influxes of younger immigrants, overall the UK population balance continues get older. It is projected that, by 2033, 23 per cent of the population will be aged 65 and over compared to 18 per cent aged 16 or younger.

The fastest population increase has been in the number of those aged 85 and over, the 'oldest old'. In 1983, there were just over 600,000 people in the UK aged 85 and over. Since then the numbers have more than doubled reaching 1.3 million in 2008. By 2033 the number of people aged 85 and over is projected to more than double again to reach 3.2 million, and to account for 5 per cent of the total population. Combined with the fact that dementia rates rise rapidly among the over 80s, that's a big bill for care that someone has to foot. That someone probably being those of us who work and pay taxes.

The government suggested this week that those entering retirement might want to chip in a bit. Health Minister Andy Burnham said the government may introduce a compulsory charge of up to £20,000 pounds per person payable on retirement to cover the cost of care in old age - though, it is just one of three options being considered alongside a top-up payment system and an insurance-based approach. Frankly, I think he could suggest that the government will pay by winning the lottery every week, since he hasn't much chance of enacting anything after the general election. But that hasn't stopped Dave "David" Cameron jumping in with a soundbite about a "death tax", and an artless poster highlighting the issue (here).

If it were me, I'd make it £40,000, and we'll take the car as well, just so the Baby Boomer generation can finally feel what it feels like to pay for something. Having been rewarded with the best start in life on the backs of their parents' struggles, they have enjoyed a lifetime of free education, full employment, the sexual revolution and occupational pension schemes that seem designed by Bernie Madoff. And, of course, entitlement to retire at 55. Picking up the tab is my generation, who are presented with a unique opportunity to get screwed at both ends, as we won't get the chance to leech off the next generation in time-honoured fashion. The Boomers have pulled up the drawbridge, and we have to pay for everything ourselves.

£20,000 is less than the operating costs of my 4-person family for just one year, so far from extortion, I reckon it looks excellent value for an open-ended commitment to on-call nurses to wipe your bum around the clock. But it's not something I will ultimately have to pay; by the 2030s I reckon they'll have banned retirement altogether, and we'll just be "executed" when the chip in our hands starts flashing. They'll call it Logan's Stagger.


PW said...

You're a hard man, Hoffy. But I think you have a point.

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.