Editor-At-Large: We need older workers – they know everything

Share
Related Topics

Funny how the Government continually talks of safeguarding families and looking after workers, but the group it seems reluctant to protect is pensioners. Who was hit the hardest last week by the historic, or desperate, cut in interest rates? That increasingly rare species, savers. And who worked hard to stockpile their wages over the years and now depend on their savings to supplement their meagre standard of living? Pensioners.

There are estimated to be three million pensioners in poverty – nearly one in four, a shocking statistic. Although the Government is always bashing on, rightly, about ending child poverty, it seems impervious to the fact that half a million more pensioners are below the poverty line of £151 a week than about a year ago. Pension plans have dropped in value and interest on savings has plummeted from 5 per cent to 0.5 per cent.

The plight of pensioners is shameful, but even worse is the Brown government's two-faced attitude to retirement. In 2006, age-discrimination legislation was passed that excluded pensioners – an unnecessary piece of vindictiveness, enacted by a government in which many senior citizens occupy highly paid ministerial jobs. There's clearly one rule for ordinary people and another for Margaret Beckett, Kenneth Clarke and the other 89 pensioner MPs. Age Concern is fighting our compulsory retirement age of 65, which means that while a worker can ask to stay on, it's the boss's decision.

Unlike in my parents' generation, there are now thousands of 60-plus workers who want to do something productive, who like to keep their brains active, who need the cash, and who relish working, even if it is part-time. It keeps them stimulated, positive and within the community. About 25,000 pensioners are chucked out of work annually because of our repugnant laws – and they can be laid off without redundancy pay. Last week, the European Court upheld our compulsory retirement age, but now the Government will have to defend it in the High Court, and provide a "high standard of proof" that employers can get rid of workers on the grounds of age alone. They can justify retiring people by claiming they need to train younger workers, a loophole that will be, no doubt, readily exploited.

There are hundreds of legal actions pending, brought by pensioners who don't want to retire and feel the mandatory age is unfair. And they vote, unlike the under-21s. We've got thousands of kids leaving school who can't read and write, have no social skills, and use "txtspk" to communicate, when they're not grunting. The Government plans apprenticeships in practical skills, but what these young people need (and many stand no chance of getting from their loosely knit families) are essential social and life skills. Pensioners have all that in spades, which is why savvy supermarkets and DIY chains have been seeking out older people and giving them prominent jobs dealing with the public.

We can't allow the workplace to be run according to the mantra that youth is the key to the future. Youth is like a rudderless ship. What the workforce needs – when employers start hiring again – is a balance that reflects all generations, so new members of staff can learn from those who've been around a bit longer. When you're planning a garden you don't chuck out the mature trees and shrubs and fill it with cheap bedding plants that won't last the winter – and the workplace is no different.

Sweet treats: I love young men, but you don't get much sleep...

To find out why Madonna is enjoying hot nights with a cute boy of 22, look at those gorgeous pictures of Mick Jagger at roughly the same age, making some dodgy red swimming trunks look totally adorable. That skinny-boy body is sex on a stick. I'm not surprised that Madge, in her 50th year, has decided to have a bit of fun – I've done the same thing myself. Jerry Hall, meanwhile, tries to sound like the voice of reason, claiming she finds the notion of having sex with anyone in their twenties "incredibly boring". Surely you just want to have sex with someone who wants to have sex, no matter what's on their birth certificate. If it's legal, go for it has always been my motto. The upside of toy boys – apart from the physical – is that you become an expert on the latest music. The downside is that you hear it at 4am. Another plus: no need to iron or wash their clothes – they don't trust anyone to handle their threads, hogging the bathroom and spending hours posing in front of a mirror. They also operate on another time zone, eating breakfast at 2pm, lunch in the early evening, and dinner, if any, in the small hours of the morning. It's all very demanding but, like great chocolate, nice to dip into every now and then.

Meltdown on Kilimanjaro

What crocks those celebs turned out to be on Kilimanjaro. Chris Moyles got vertigo. Alesha Dixon fell down a steep ledge having a pee in the night. Fearne Cotton suffered nosebleeds. Gary Barlow was allowed a short cut because of his sore back, and Cole's altitude sickness was so bad that she had a special injection.

Well done for raising more than £1m for good causes – but what a bunch of whingers they were in their blogs. When I climbed the mountain in 2001, three of us raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for Aids projects, and I was glad our trip was a small one, so that as the altitude sickness and stomach upsets kicked in there weren't too many observers. I've climbed more than 16,000ft three times in my life, and on each occasion – no matter how fit and well prepared I was – I suffered from horrible altitude sickness and stomach cramps.

Once you reach the summit, you smile like a demented gnome in the photos recording your achievement, while your insides are in meltdown.

Just the ticket – yet more gloom

With more gloomy news of job cuts, you'd think that our cultural commissars would offer escapism to lift our spirits. Instead, we get misery to compound our woes. Last week was particularly downbeat. A leaden production of Burnt by the Sun opened at the National Theatre, set in the countryside outside Moscow in 1936 as Stalin's excesses grow. The critics raved about the ensemble acting, but I found Peter Flannery's dramatisation of the 1994 Academy Award-winning film upmarket soap and nothing more.

Next, on Channel 4, Red Riding, the trilogy based on David Peace's novels set in South Yorkshire in 1974, couldn't have been more grisly. There was nothing remotely comfortable about this horrible drama. Finally, Matt Crawford's been arrested on fraud charges in The Archers, and the Radio 4 sci-fi serial was The Death of Grass by John Christopher, in which a virus destroys crops worldwide. We followed John and his mates as they murdered their way across a post-apocalyptic Britain. Terrific fun!

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior DBA (SQL Server, T-SQL, SSIS, SSAS) London - Finance

£30000 - £33000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior DBA (SQ...

Business Anaylst

£60000 - £75000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: Business Anal...

Senior Project Manager

£60000 - £90000 per annum + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Global leading Energy Tra...

Associate CXL Consultant

£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation on the country's Independence Day in New Delhi, India  

With Modi talking tough and Sharif weak, the India-Pakistan love-in could never last

Andrew Buncombe
At the time of the investigation Patrick Foster published a statement on Twitter, denouncing the “unnecessarily heavy-handed police investigation”  

Long-term bail allows lazy police and prosecutors to leave cases to gather dust

Oliver Wright
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment