Roy Bainton’s guest column: Are senior citizens an asset or a joke?

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Thankfully, following the payday loan company Wonga’s debacle over sending out bogus solicitor’s letters, the detestable TV ads featuring creepy ‘pensioner’ puppets, have gone.

That portrayal of the elderly, as supposedly ‘funny’ caricatures demonstrated how poorly our western society values the Senior Citizen.

We live in a culture where youth is a fetish. Once we hit 60, many people impatiently dismiss us as little more than a wrinkly nuisance.

Among many perceived delinquencies, we’re accused of draining the NHS of funds, clogging up supermarket check-outs, slowing down queues at cashpoints.

Worst still, with austerity, our government’s aim seems to be to set youth against the elderly, never failing to point out how much of a burden the old, with their bus passes and free prescriptions, are on the Treasury.

Yet whether you’re an MP or a motor mechanic, unless fate intervenes, you too will grow old, to which we coffin-dodgers might say “See how you like it…”

Elsewhere in the world compassion and patience are not in such short supply. In Greece, the term ‘old man’, ‘Geronto’ is one of huge respect.

The same respect and love for the elderly occurs in countries such as Korea, where packing your granddad off to a retirement home would be abhorrent. In China, a new “Elderly Rights Law” warns the young “never neglect or snub elderly people”, mandating that they visit their elderly parents often. In such societies the old are valued for their life experience and their wisdom.

The UK has three million people aged over 80. This could double by 2030, reaching eight million by 2050. While one in six of the UK population is currently aged 65 and over, by 2050 one in-four will be. So, today’s dismissive young folk better get used to the idea, because eventually you’ll be among the ‘wrinklies’.

However, we might be a nuisance to some, but with our pensions and free time we’re a cash cow to others.

To the advertising agencies we’re the ‘sunlight’ market - so called because many oldies watch daytime TV.

Ambulance-chasing lawyers, extortionate short-term loan sharks and others are desperate for us to part with our savings before the hearse arrives.

Which brings us to the obstinate, nauseating presence on TV channels such as Yesterday, of Sir Michael Parkinson. Since his TV interviewing career ended, he has a new day job, plugging the AXA Sun Life Guaranteed Over-50 Plan.

Parky, an extremely rich 79 year old, wants our money. AXA pay him very handsomely for cluttering up nearly every commercial break with his “and you get a free pen” punch line.

One wonders why, with all the money he must have stashed away, he needs even more. Sadly, almost 800,000 old folk, terrified of a pauper’s funeral, have fallen for it. So thank heavens for the ‘Mute’ button on the remote.

Despite surgery, collagen, hair dye and botox, ageing is inevitable. But think on. Most of the benefits enjoyed by our society today were won by those of us who were young 60 years ago. We even gave you rock’n’roll, and invented the concept of the ‘teenager’. We’ve worked hard, experienced things, and gathered a little wisdom. So next time you’re ‘tut-tutting’ behind us at the cashpoint, remember. It’ll be your turn next.