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If you missed Panorama this week – entitled The Generation Game it gave a good assessment of our ageing population, albeit a slightly concerning one.

Yes, one in every four people born today will live to be 100 which means inevitably our population is becoming top heavy. The retiree brigade will out number the working brigade which begs the obvious question – how are we going to pay to support these people (including me) through old age and the potential health issues which crop up in later life?

Panorama, through the eloquent commentary of Dame Joan Bakewell, herself 77, suggested that the ‘baby boomers’ who start their migration into retirement this year, are the wealthiest generation ever and as property owners have bags of equity to support themselves.

On the flip side the programme suggested the welfare state, created to provide just this kind of support, should pick up this cost or at least some of it. Why should folk who have saved hard for a well-earned retirement, see their money eaten up in their own care and support?

The debate rages on and is compounded by the current economic climate which sees cash-strapped local authorities pulling back on funding for adult social care. This is already impacting on council-funded residential care and domiciliary services delivered into people’s homes.

It didn’t make for comfortable viewing at times but the programme did have one highlight – the Birmingham couple moving to a retirement village. You may think I’m biased here but this wasn’t one of our communities, it was Oscott Village near Birmingham run by Extra Care Charitable Trust.

The couple gave up their family home of 30 years-plus to start a ‘new life’ in the retirement village and they couldn’t wait to get there.

The programme captured a typical village perfectly, showing a stream of activities and social events. One female resident who lived alone said it gave her security while the peace of mind meant she would probably live longer – her words from the programme, not mine!

Great footage and great commentary. But I couldn’t help thinking Panorama had shot themselves in the foot slightly here. The programme makers opted for a village which was part funded by a charity, the local council and a housing association. If the negative economic forecasts prevail, councils up and down the country won’t have the money to fund such schemes and there is already evidence to show this is the case.

What Panorama did achieve was to bring what is undoubtedly one of the country’s most serious social issues into everyone’s living rooms. As more people become aware and accept what is happening then realistic solutions can be considered. We hope other high profile names will join Dame Joan Bakewell in bringing this potential ticking ‘time bomb’ into the public arena.

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