Terry Pearce
BBC Documentary: When I Get Older, photo BBC

BBC Documentary: When I Get Older, photo BBC   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Acute poverty and loneliness face many pensioners in Britain. This programme asked four pensionable age ‘celebrities’ to stay with four `ordinary` pensioners in their homes, highlighting the lifestyle gulf between celebrities and the rest of us.

TV presenter Gloria Hunniford stayed with Ivy Ward, who suffers from depression, living alone and existing on £3.24 a day disposable income, as do two million other pensioners. Gloria found it impossible to shop for food on such a poverty budget. One million pensioners are under-nourished.

Pat was struggling to care for her husband Malcolm. Leslie Joseph stayed with Pat and was her carer for four days. Pat needed respite from the daily grind of caring for Malcolm. Half a million pensioners only go out one day a week, which must be especially hard for those providing 24-hour care for loved ones.

The celebrities then spent three days in care homes, most of which are now privately owned and run. Activities and stimulation are very limited. In the home Leslie Joseph visited there was only one activity a day, no minibus and a meagre £100 a month budget for activities.

Several celebs commented on lack of stimulation in the homes leading to boredom and depression. The government should put vastly more resources into social care and take the private sector out of the equation. Lack of resources is leading to deteriorating social care both at home and in care homes.

Care of the elderly should not be run by profit-hungry private providers, it should be paid for out of taxation and run by the public sector with staff paid a decent wage and properly trained.

The programmes offered no solutions. Some pensioners confronted Jeremy Paxman and Tory minister David Willetts on Newsnight. Instead of placing the blame with the greedy bankers, these establishment figures tried to blame pensioners for young unemployed people’s plight, parroting the Tory mantra that pensioners receive pensions and benefits that the country cannot afford.

The pensioners said they put £40 billion into the economy while corporate tax-dodgers rob society. They also pointed out that they should have the right to retire at 60, allowing young people more jobs!

Pensioners are fighting for better pensions now and for all those coming along behind them. We also need better care for the elderly. A united fight of pensioners and youth based on a socialist programme is the way to end pensioner poverty once and for all.

Rich Tory MP tries flying a few kites

Nick Boles, yet another rich public school/Oxbridge educated Tory MP, has been flying kites testing how much resistance right-wing policies on old people might face.

His suggestion that pensioners’ winter fuel payments, free bus passes and TV licences should be means-tested or even abolished is only slightly more extreme than ideas pushed by the Cameron government.

The National Pensioners Convention (NPC) points out that universal benefits “help to mitigate against the UK’s totally inadequate state pension.

Attacking the winter fuel allowance will only cost more in the long run as older people suffer from the cold and put more of a strain on health services.” The NPC is organising a lobby of parliament in October as a shot across Boles’ bows.