LETTER:How to plan for our old-age boom

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From Mr Mervyn Kohler

Sir: Britain's problems about how to cater for the future needs of an aging population (letters, 2 February) are less alarming than those facing many other countries. But neither are they small. A combination of rising numbers and rising standards and expectations will inevitably lead to a rise in total costs. If we are going to manage this smoothly, we need to be taking appropriate action now.

The revenue sources to fund those extra costs are not available from older people themselves. There will be many debates over who can afford to pay for what services but, broadly, the lion's share will fall on the working population. Only a third of older households have incomes which put them in the tax bracket, and just a half own homes which they may be willing or able to use to release capital. They cannot increase their overall income, and even people over 50 today in full-time work would face difficulty building a personal fund to meet their full needs.

Planning for the needs of older age has got to be inter-generational. This must be the principle that informs our thinking. With it, we can build a coherent society; without it, both families and society will be irreparably damaged.

Yours faithfully,

Mervyn Kohler

Head of Public Affairs

Help the Aged

London, EC1

5 February