Time for us to get to grips with ageing

IT affects us all. Ageing that is. But it’s a subject that political debate has traditionally tended to shy away from. Too often it’s been put in the ‘too difficult’ or ‘leave for another day’ list of things to do. That’s understandable because it asks fundamental questions of us as individuals and as a community.

But with six months to go before Guernsey’s general election, perhaps now is the time to really talk through the challenges and opportunities that changing demographics present.

The biggest elephant in the room, arguably, is who pays the bill for an ageing population? Should it be a personal responsibility to make provision for our own potentially expensive care in older age when the time comes? Or should it be a collective responsibility for the community? Candidates and voters should be ready to talk about it because one way or another we will all feel it whether that is directly through own pockets or through the tax man.

But it’s not just about money and negatives. There are plenty of positives about longer life. The opportunity for positive human experience. Plus, the accumulated wisdom and experience. Both in the personal sphere and world of work, there are benefits aplenty. The question is are systems and structures really designed effectively to support an older population – and enable people to live well for much longer? Finding a way ahead could mean much more human happiness as well as positive economic spin-offs and lower care bills.

The reality is that truly getting to grips with changing demographics is that it will challenge both candidates for election and us as individuals. There may not be a simple fix, an off-the-shelf solution that we can reach for.

It’s also likely to cost money, something we should be prepared to consider. Tax and spending plans are never easy, particularly amid competing demands for limited resources.

But if we start from the position of dignity and happiness in older age, that could be a good launching point for discussions on the campaign trail. As someone once said, it’s good to talk.

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