From Ros Altmann:economist and pensions,
    investment and retirement policy expert

  • pensionsandsavings.com

    Delighted to see Government rejects age discrimination against over-70s

    Delighted to see Government rejects age discrimination against over-70s

    • Government rejects discrimination in its lockdown policy – quite right too!
    • Isolated, healthy over-70s delighted to be spared harsher treatment just because of their age. 
    • ONS death rates and medical evidence do not suggest all over-70s at greater risk from Covid-19.

    Older people delighted to see Government rejecting discrimination: The Government’s measures to ease lockdown restrictions do not, as many had feared, include ageist bias. Having worked so hard to overcome age discrimination throughout society and the workplace, Ministers have listened to the strong voices of older people, often fitter and healthier than those much younger than themselves, who were horrified at the suggestions of restricting their freedoms and liberty to leave their own homes, based purely on their age.

    Enforced extended isolation would damage mental and physical health: Many over-70s are living alone, with no family nearby and their lives have revolved around their work, volunteering, social life and leisure activities. Some of them have suffered both mental and physical problems as a result of enforced, prolonged isolation, but accept this as part of the emergency response to a national pandemic. But surely they have just as much right as others to their freedom.

    Government is right to just offer guidance and trust them to be responsible: The Government’s decision to offer advice, guidance and information is the correct policy response in our mature democracy. Trusting older people’s common sense and leaving them to know how to balance their health risks and live their lives appropriately is part of our national culture.

    Medical and scientific evidence does NOT show Covid-19 is more fatal for over-70s – such claims do not stand up to scrutiny: The statistics do not support the simplistic notion that over-70s are more at risk of dying from this disease. Latest ONS data show that over-70s comprise 81.5% of deaths mentioning Covid-19. This simplistic figure has sometimes been used to conclude all over-70s must be at greater risk than younger people. But this is simply not the case. ONS statistics also show that in any year, over-70s comprise 82% of all deaths from any cause. In other words, this virus has not pushed the risks of dying up significantly for this age group. The figures just reflect the fact that all older people are more likely to die on any one day than all younger people. Of course, without widespread testing and medical examination, all the figures are inexact, however this evidence is also supported by the medical profession, who are opposed to blanket, age-based lockdown policy.

    Protecting the nation includes protecting our values that reject all forms of discrimination:  Government, of course, wants to protect the nation, but it must also protect our values. I congratulate Ministers for their decision to uphold our principles that discrimination, in all its forms, is unacceptable. For too long, there has been an undercurrent that treats age discrimination as somehow more acceptable than bias against religious, ethnic, gender or other groups.

    Over-70s are not all weak, frail and vulnerable: With an aging population and so many older people being fitter and healthier than ever before – and having been encouraged to work longer to enhance their lifestyles – it would have been so wrong to suddenly treat them all as weak, vulnerable and less important to our national welfare. Older citizens are not a homogeneous group, that can all be lumped together and assumed to be in less need of social or economic contact. Of course, ‘shielding’ those who ARE vulnerable is a societal duty, but that applies at any age.

    The sooner we recognise the value older people bring, the better for all of us.

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