Retirement may be leisure for a few, but for many nothing could be further from the truth ("Pensioners should pull their weight", 13 March). People are living longer, but not necessarily healthier. Each has a life-limiting persistent illness or disability for, on average, 15 years. Although those in their late sixties and seventies may wish to continue to work, they can find themselves caring round-the-clock for a family member or friend. The biggest increase in the ageing population is in the oldest old, whose own children are likely to fall into this particular age group.
We pensioners help to save the state £90bn a year, by offering care and support free. Many of us look after grandchildren to enable their parents to work and thereby contribute to the economy, or are involved in unpaid work in the community. We pay tax, and the astronomical charges levied on us for care services end up lining the pockets of investors in the care industry.
Paid for doing nothing? I don't think so.
Newly trained community workers should make use of the valuable experience and talent of our retired citizens. The untapped human resources available in every neighbourhood can be valued at billions of pounds.
Like other high-profile opponents of AV, David Owen does not appear to understand the system ("The alternative vote will not reform our electoral system," 13 March). He writes that "it won't end safe seats, tactical voting, or wasted votes". The truth is, AV will greatly reduce safe seats and wasted votes, and will end the need for tactical voting. It is absurd to say that "the second preferences of the least popular candidates have the most influence". AV is the system used by the political parties to elect their leaders. If David Cameron thinks that first-past-the-post is so marvellous, perhaps he should give up the Tory leadership to David Davis, who was the leading first-round candidate in the 2005 leadership battle.
That school students understand the narrative of British history is important ("The dangers of allowing children to drop history at 13," 13 March). If you don't know that the English Civil War came before, and not after, the 1832 Reform Act, you will struggle to understand how modern British society came to be what it is. Give them the basic facts of historical chronology, and we can then debate their significance. If narrative is dull in the classroom, discussing what it means shouldn't be.
Having been interviewed for every job I applied for in my twenties, once I hit my thirties I stopped getting asked to interview even for jobs my experience was clearly perfect for ("Childless and happy? I am, and so are many others", 13 March). Employers could no longer ask women if they wanted to have children.
If I cannot even get an interview, I don't have the chance to tell the potential employer that I don't want children. Instead of discriminating against women who want children, now we just discriminate against women of a certain age. If I was an employer, I would do the same, and not interview women in their thirties.
We Japanese were greatly encouraged by the message on your front page ("Don't give up, Japan, Don't give up, Tohoku"). It was the best written support we could have hoped for. My mother in Fukushima had no electricity, so couldn't see the message, but many Japanese media in Tokyo carried it and it was gratefully received.
Every other front page showed devastated images from Japan, to report the terribleness of the tsunami or earthquake or nuclear plants. The Independent on Sunday was the only one that showed support with Japanese letters and the rising sun. It cheered me up very much and made me even prouder of being Japanese. Thank you.
There's a Japanese saying which encapsulates the people's courage and steadfastness over the many centuries of fighting the unforgiving elements: Seven times down, eight times up.
Chester-le-Street, Co Durham
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