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Last Updated: Friday, 26 March, 2004, 13:16 GMT
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Anti-ageing treatment
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By the year 2024, there will be almost twice as many pensioners as there are today, but a lower birth rate means there will be fewer young people to pay tax and support them.

What will happen to the ageing baby boomers? IF looks at the choices we may face in 20 years time.

We want your thoughts and opinions on the issues raised by If...the generations fall out.

This online forum is now closed.


I thought the programme was very biased and gloomy
JS Knight, Sheffield
I am 33-years-old and my main concern is that, if our children are going to have to pay more taxes to cater for the elderly, where does that leave disabled people who are already among the poorest in the country? We would be forced to live in residential housing therefore forcing our children - in paying taxes - to pay for housing for us as well. Will it be a case of mass bankruptcy? I hope not but, judging by the programme's warnings, it might come down to it.
Shaun Williams, Hereford

I thought the programme was very biased and gloomy. It made the point that we have to support an increasing elderly population but, if there are fewer kids, then there are fewer dependents at the young end to support.

I feel that we can increase productivity so we can support an increasing population. On green grounds we cannot support our throwaway society. We need to make machines last longer, then we'd need fewer people to make them and we'd cause less pollution.
JS Knight, Sheffield

The prospect of people working into their seventies is absurd
Bob Johnson, Bristol
The TV programme mentioned that the cost of housing will fall due to lower demand caused by a declining population. If the birth rate is in such a decline, why is the government intent on a massive building programme in the South East?
John Kendrick, Scarborough

The programme was based on the premise that medical science will have progressed sufficiently by 2024 to allow the elderly to live fulfilled active lives. This flies in the face of reality. For many of the diseases and medical problems of old age such as arthritis and Alzheimer's disease there is no prospect of a cure in the foreseeable future.

The burden for younger people in the future is going to be paying for the upkeep of the elderly who are infirm and in very poor health and are either using up the available NHS resources or living out their lives in very costly care homes. For the same reason the prospect of people working into their seventies is absurd. People will just not have good enough health to allow this prolonged working. Take off the rose-coloured specs and face reality.
Bob Johnson, Bristol

The people in their 50s and 60s now have had life easy - fewer work pressures, job security, final salary pensions, state healthcare, huge windfalls of wealth from housing inflation, no university costs. They may have worked hard, but should recognise they have had it easier compared with people younger.

My children now have far more pressure at school, then they are expected to take on massive debts to earn devalued degrees and then find that there are no decent paying jobs. How are they then going to pay off their debts, save £200,000 to buy a house, and invest for their retirement at the same time as trying to bring up children?

No chance, no hope, something will have to give. The most likely outcome will be a dose of inflation to pay off the youngsters' debts and transfer wealth from the old to the young.
Mark Coombes, Reigate

Text: Where has the sense of respect gone for our elders? They deserve all they can get.
Cat, Cheltenham

We really have to square this circle by raising the retirement age. People are actually retiring earlier and earlier in their lives while life expectancy rises.

The average pensioner in the 1940s lived only a few years in receipt of a pension, while even now they can often look forward to 20 years. (A friend of mine went on working until he was 95, quite voluntarily.)

Also, there is a great disparity between incomes of pensioners. Many private pensioners have very large incomes, while those dependent on the state pension can still be in poverty.

Yet all the pressure is to avoid "means testing" (which is really nothing like the means test of the 1930s), so that the government is having to pay large amounts to people really don't need it.
David Boothroyd, London

If, as suggested on the television programme, us youngsters are asked to increase the birth rate, we will simply be passing the problem on to the generation after us.

And what will they do? Increase the birth rate again? This means that in two generations time, just to keep up with our over-spending government, we will be an over-populated country, when most resources of the planet will have been decimated, leaving us with a population who are hungry, unhappy and destroying the planet and society at an exponential rate.
Miral Shantilal, London, UK

Text: Scaremongering with the licence fee? That's all this seems to be.
Bruce, Leeds.

Text: If all world wealth was redistributed equally and we all start to work together for the benefit of all then these scenarios can be worked through.
David, London

This program has really made me stop and think. I am 26 now and just embarking on my professional career. Will my children be in such a horrendous state?

Pity those who think pensions are a waste of time
Victor, Glasgow
The only solution I can think of is that those who no longer work are disenfranchised.

If the vote only belongs to those who work then the government can only be affected by them and they will not allow such things as the NHS paying for "Rejuven 8"-type treatment.

It would also maybe encourage people to continue working longer. If the older are fitter, they will be able to work until an older age. Maybe the pensionable age should be raised?
Ellie Ridge, Bristol

Text: Being 15, wanting to be a doctor, I will pay over half of my wages to my parents, with nothing for myself, if this comes true.
Andrew, Llandudno

Text: I don't want to pay for old people to live it up. Then when they die they will want a fancy funeral and then will leave you nothing in their will.
E.H, Somerset

Text: Pity those who think pensions are a waste of time..! Young people are heading for disaster.
Victor, Glasgow

Text: I disagree, young people are what holds the fabric of our country together.
DB, Devon

As a baby boomer I'd like to be able to contribute as long as I am fit. I don't agree with my own parents' lifestyle of four foreign holidays a year. I certainly won't have the pension they currently enjoy.

This is the first programme in this series that has actually scared me
Claire Benson, London
If the next generation have to produce more babies then I think it is our responsibility to help the women look after them, whether by providing workplace crèche facilities or by using the extended family such as grandparents (i.e. my generation).
Barbara King, London

It is clearly obvious that if the economic situation continues in the way that it is today, we will have a serious crisis on our hands and the drama from the "IF" programmes will unfortunately become inevitably true.

Luckily at the moment, we are in a current economic situation where this won't happen. If we keep our economic situation as it is right now, then future generations will benefit. However if we do change to a more unbeneficial economy then this will be a problem. We will start to see many more debts cropping up all around us, and many more of our futures will simply be poured down the drain.

In my opinion, I think the "IF" series is a very strong television programme, which really should be a model to look at. If we do not sort something out then there is all possibility that our country could turn out for the worse.
Mike Layer, Watford, UK

Surely if we encouraged immigration even more to balance the vast numbers of pensioners, there would then be the huge problem of over-crowding and not enough houses?

Over-population could create just as many problems for the NHS.
Carina Campbell, Norwich, England

Text: Age is rarely a criterion. Plenty of young people are a waste of space!
Rob, Leicester

I have heard so many people say on the news "I have a right to stop working because I have worked all my life". Why? If people are enjoying better health and longer life they should be prepared to work for more years.

I am 21 and this is the first programme in this series that has actually scared me.

I remember having geography lessons 10 years ago that warned of the problems Germany was about to face, and the UK could face, but nobody took it seriously. Well I do because it is my generation that will be made to foot the bill.

I have already had to pay to go to university when the country will benefit from my skills, and the higher level of tax that I will be paying.

I understand that any decent civilisation should take care of those who are unable to take care of themselves, but I don't believe that everybody over the age of 65 comes under this umbrella.
Claire Benson, London

Text: I work in the pensions industry and young people have no interest in them. They'll be sorry!
Jack, Dalkeith

If we are to consider the effect on the economy of the additional number of aged in the population resulting from the baby boomer years, we should also then consider the immense contribution that those same people have had on the economy during their working lifetimes i.e. Income Tax and National Insurance - you can't have it both ways.

This has been a real 'working' generation, where in many cases both partners in a relationship are working and contributing to the national economic pot!

It is these baby boomers who are the same people who have paid to educate and keep this current generation healthy
Susan Lucibello, Rayleigh, Essex
We should not complain then when those same people want a little back out of the system, by way of the paltry state pension or abysmally inadequate NHS system.

After all, during their working lifetimes, most of them would probably have had private health care insurance and dental insurance which would have negated their need to claim treatment from the NHS during their working lifetimes. You cannot deny a little return on their contributions.

We must remember that it is these baby boomers who are the same people who have paid to educate and keep this current generation healthy- as well as themselves - and pay the pensions of their parents' generation.
Susan Lucibello, Rayleigh, Essex

The baby boom generation made me pay to go to university, saddling me with a £20K debt for the privilege, have made sure I can not afford to get on the property ladder because of ridiculous house prices, have made me start contributing to my pension at 23, contributing to a health care scheme because the NHS is beyond hope, and yet they still have the nerve to take tax and National Insurance out of my salary every month.

Many pensioners get by on a very meagre allowance
Dorothy Williams, Smethwick, West Midlands
The baby boomers didn't have to contend with any of that. Tomorrow's pensioners have another thing coming if they think they're getting it from me.
Catherine Hart, Chesterfiled

All these programs, along with every other doomsday scenario, are based on the assumption that certain selected current trends will continue uninterrupted, grow exponentially and that nothing else will happen to counter them.

The future is never what we predict it to be, if you don't believe me just take a look at what the "experts" were telling us back in the 1960s about the world in 2000.

It's rubbish to justify this series on the basis that governments consider worst case scenarios in their planning. Of course they do, but they then take measures to make sure it doesn't happen.

This is just sensationalist drama with no more value than a Hammer horror movie. I'm not saying that there are not serious issues raised merely that they are being used as a pretext for telling scary stories.
Gerry, Rugby

I wonder about the whole premise of this programme - even planting the seed that old people are a different race from the young and therefore to be resented.

Stephen Hayes should do some voluntary work for Age Concern if he thinks that all pensioners are enjoying a golden age.

Wealth, if you have it, can surmount most problems but many pensioners get by on a very meagre allowance, this after serving for their country in world wars and working in conditions that would not be tolerated by people today.
Dorothy Williams, Smethwick, West Midlands

Personally I think this is a bit alarmist! I believe that the generation gap is actually getting smaller.

Yes, so kids do rebel against their parents, it's a normal thing, but I think that many parents and people over 40 are actually a lot younger in their outlook than past generations.

This series is struggling to find things to talk about and they have picked a wrong-un here. The media in general seems intent on driving a wedge between generations and fails to realise that age is only a number and just because our bodies move faster than our age it doesn't mean that 'old' people are not aware of the same things the 'kids' are!

However I do think there is a wider problem in that people no longer want to do the un-glamorous jobs that involve caring for people who need care, so there will be a shortfall and that will effect those in need whatever age they are
Donna, Wales

It's really too late. Baby boomers and seniors have enough political power to prevent reform and they'll use it. They already have. In my country, any discussion of reform has meant a lost election.

The majority will use the minority all in the name of "democracy".
Scot Allen, Plant City Fl, USA

It is a fact that baby boomers have had it easy. Moderate house prices, a hefty dose of inflation to reduce their mortgages, the right to cherry pick the council housing stock at knock down prices and lowish taxation. It's going to be grim for generation Y. Perhaps it is time to move on to a younger country.
Tom

There is already a generation war. It's called age discrimination and against which I have campaigned for years.

We need to permit older workers to go on contributing to our national wealth instead of excluding them
Andrew Dundas, Ilkley
Older workers are systematically excluded from jobs so that younger workers can be promoted. This has led to the fallacy that providing early retirements somehow creates jobs. It has the opposite effect because pensions, however they are funded, are a tax on all other workers that diverts investment from the creation of new forms of work.

To mitigate the negative effect, we need to permit older workers to go on contributing to our national wealth instead of excluding them.
Andrew Dundas, Ilkley

As someone who expects to get a pension soon I have a different perspective.

When I started work in 1958 I had no choice but to pay into a National Insurance Scheme to cover various things such as medical treatment, unemployment benefit and, eventually, a pension.

At various times we have had Graduated Pensions and SERPS. I have spent 3 days as an in-patient, visited A&E and been an outpatient once every two years or so and see a doctor twice a year or so.

Today's pensioners are enjoying a golden age which can't last
Stephen Hayes, Southampton
I was made redundant once but was not allowed to sign on. I have paid a very large sum of money over the years for this and for my pension which was going to be index-linked to salaries.

I am now told that this considerable investment has been taken under false pretences and I am anti-social to expect a return. It seems simple to me, I have paid a large sum of money to a pension provider, I want my pension and actually expect more than I am going to get.
John, Southampton

At last someone is talking about this issue. The idea that we can spend 22 years in full time education, 40 working, and 20 in fully funded retirement is ridiculous.

The ludicrous culture of 'rightism' must be challenged. The old do not have the right to have the living daylights taxed from the young to fund comfortable 20 year retirements. One answer would be a great increase in inheritance tax. This is unpalatable, but already young people are putting off having children later and later because they can't afford to buy a home.

Increasing immigration is an unethical short-term solution as it robs poorer countries of their best workers, who will grow old themselves so it just puts the problem off.

And, yes, for this and other reasons (global resource depletion, warming, etc) we are all going to have to learn to be happy with less. Today's pensioners are enjoying a golden age which can't last.
Stephen Hayes, Southampton



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