Well, Pope Francis certainly proved Mrs Thatcher wrong. “A man who rides a bus to work after the age of 30 can count himself a failure in life,” said Mrs T, which always made me a tad uneasy on my otherwise highly enjoyable journey in on the No 27. But given that the new Pope is being lauded (bizarrely) for doing just that in Buenos Aires, I think we can safely say she was wrong on that one. So much so, that even Geri Halliwell might try it.
While we were admiring the pomp and ceremony in Rome, our leaders were tying themselves up in knots over the continuing fallout from the Leveson report and minimum alcohol pricing – to name but two. So, the hugely important House of Lords Public Service and Demographic Change Report got less media play than it otherwise would or should have. Its key finding is that Britain is “woefully underprepared” for the demographic time-bomb of the surging number of over-65s.
That number will soar by some 50 per cent between 2010 and 2030. And, let’s be clear, our society is already ageing. The idea that we might all live, say, 10 years longer is something that on the face of it is to be celebrated. But if we outlive our pensions and savings – such as they are – and require further health and social care, millions may be condemned to penury in our dotage.
Add to this scenario a predicted 80 per cent increase in dementia over the same period, and those retirement years may look anything but golden. Of course, it is a mistake to regard all elderly people as a burden or ignore the considerable contribution to the economy many will still be making, but it is to no one’s benefit whatsoever for us to continue to bury our heads in the sand and somehow imagine that everything will be fine. Social care, the future of the NHS, pensions and savings need to be at the top of the political agenda and public discourse – for all our sakes.