Tuesday, 28 November 2006

Is it just me or does the future sound scary?

Apparently there will be a 38 per cent increase in those aged 85 and over in the next ten years.
Not only that, but a new Treasury document also points out that, as the baby boom generation ages, they will make up a far more demanding elderly population than the one we have at present. In other words, these people – who did not live through the depression - have higher expectations. Having spent their working lives in generally good health and with what is described as "higher material comfort", they are unlikely to be happy living on small pensions or suffering poor public services (in other words, a bus pass won't be good enough for these oldies; they, quite rightly, want an impressive bus service to go with it).
This shouldn't be bad news, but it strikes me as a bit scary. I have two young children, and as far as I can tell, the world in which they are growing up is not as rosy as I could have hoped. Too many different problems seem to be accumulating at the same time.
The main one, of course, is safety. The world does not seem to be as safe a place these days - and I say that having grown up with the IRA threat in London. At one stage, there were weekly bomb alerts while I was studying at the LSE, but all these were heralded by warnings, and we were lucky to live in times where there were no suicide bombers on the mainland.
Leaving safety aside, there are so many other issues that seem to be getting worse, not better. If my children go to university, they will leave burdened with huge debt (who can say how much it will cost to attend a good university in 2020?). They will then be lucky to find anywhere affordable to live, and they will have to fund the rapidly growing elderly population I mention above. If the numbers of people over 85 is rising that quickly in a decade, what about in two decades or more?
It seems as if my children’s lives will be much more limited than mine, whether for good or bad reasons (I’m not trying to be judgemental here). They will have to work later in life, spend less and save more. They’ll also be encouraged not to travel abroad because of climate change (bang goes that gap year in Australia).
Environmental changes are something I haven’t even touched on, but they could be potentially catastrophic. Honestly, it’s enough to make even the least neurotic of parents worry, at least a little.

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