This week a national newspaper invited us to find out if we will be living in a pensioner-dominated area within 20 years. Dominated is an emotive word, so I read the article carefully. Does it say that pensioners will be ‘dominating’ the local restaurants or blocking pavements with their walkers, or driving too slowly, or ‘blocking’ beds and A&E units?
No – the thrust of the article is that pensioners don’t spend enough money. Which is probably true. Pensioners are not as easy a market to sell to, because they have been there, and done that, and have all the T shirts. They are not spontaneous purchasers, ‘back pocket’ or otherwise. Surprise, surprise! They have wisdom, that rare attribute that takes a life time to develop.
But, claims the article, ‘the gap between ‘older’ communities and ‘younger’, the potentially more’ economically vibrant urban areas’ will also grow. The key phrase here is ‘economically vibrant’. See how the juxtaposition between ‘younger and vibrant’ subtly inserts an ageist view. I’ve met many ‘vibrant’ people in their 80s and 90s, and even 100s, but they don’t have what pleases economists.
Seems that the Chief Executive of the think tank Centre for Cities, wants the elderly retrained, so they can remain in work longer to help sustain local economies. Sorry Dave and Doris, you may have saved up and paid off your mortgage, but you can’t sit back and live quietly: it’s off to night school for you so you can go back to work and earn money and pay taxes and spend it locally. Don’t think of volunteering to help others, either. The economy needs you more!
The ‘economy’ has somehow become a sacred idol, that has to be worshipped at all costs. It needs to be dethroned. In Lent 2017, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby published an excellent book called just that, ‘Dethroning Mammon’, looking at money and materialism. His argument is that money should serve grace, and asks, ‘who are we worshipping?’
The second half of the article touches on the real value of older people. Phil Dolan, the Chief Executive of a regional Age UK said ‘Everything brings with it an opportunity. Many of our volunteers are those who have taken retirement and wish to use their life experience to help those who are more vulnerable than them.’
Yes, indeed. The book of psalms begins with, ‘Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked …’ (Psalm 1: 1, ESV) We think that people are more valuable than ‘Mammon’.