Thought-provoking piece from Johann Hari on the ‘nationalisation of the elderly’:
Our growing individualism, where we value our own space and freedom from constraint above all else, claims the old as victims. We cannot be bothered to look after the people who brought us up. The collapse of extended families, who in cultures such as India’s look after the elderly as automatically as they look after their children, has had some liberating effects. Yet it reaches its dark apotheosis in care homes. Their conditions should shame us into reintegrating the elderly into our everyday lives. Or, as the population grays, will we simply build more and more homes until a third of the population ends up in one?
A lot to be said for Hari’s arguement here, but just one thought – as well as individualism, our generation is also enjoying unprecedented geographical mobility, which inevitably has an effect on the extended family as the young physically leave their parents behind. Almost all my friends from my home town now live hundreds of miles away and have no plans of ever returning.
Hari’s solution of replacing state care with state assistance to help families look after their elderly, seems a good one but it depends on people living in the same communities. Britain’s extraordinarily unbalanced economy makes that near impossible for a large number of people.