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Friday, June 4, 1999 Published at 03:11 GMT 04:11 UK


Generations come together in age debate

Birmingham is thought to be representative of the UK

Eighteen-year-olds will face pensioners in the UK's first intergenerational debate on Friday.

The forum of 200 people will discuss a host of issues relating to the ageing population, including how the UK funds care for the elderly, who should pay for it, discrimination and what age people should be expected to retire.

It is the culmination of the Millennium Debate of the Age, which is led by the charity Age Concern.

It was set up in response to projections that the number of people over 60 is to rise by 40% in the next 30 years and that fertility is likely to fall as women leave childbirth later and later.


The intergenerational debate will take place in Birmingham as it is judged to represent an average cross-section of Britain's population in terms of age, race and socio-economic groups.

The 200 participants have been picked from their responses to other events on the age discussion.

They are ordinary people whose views are deemed to represent the national average.

The debate is organised by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and will form the basis of a report.

Participants have two days to hear expert witnesses from groups such as Age Concern, the University of Birmingham, the Prince's Trust, the Third Age Employment Network and the Centre for Independent Living.

After that they have been asked to fill in questionnaires on the issues covered, which range from care for the elderly to whether the elderly should be expected to work longer or give way to the young.

They also filled in a similar questionnaire before the debate started. Both responses will be collated and the IPPR will look at how the participants' views have changed.

More than an opinion poll

"It is the first time 18-year-olds will come face to face with 80-year-olds to talk about who is responsible for looking after elderly people: the family, the individual or the state," said a spokesman for the IPPR.

[ image: Sally Greengross of Age Concern will be an expert witness]
Sally Greengross of Age Concern will be an expert witness
"It is more than an opinion poll. It is what people involved in a poll would think if they had had one or two days to thrash the issues over."

The results will be fed into the government in an effort to influence future policies on subjects related to the ageing population.

The government has set up a Royal Commission to look into the issue of funding long-term care for the elderly.

This reported back earlier this year and recommended that personal and nursing care shoud be free, but the government has yet to respond.

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