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The not-so-golden years

Thousands of Scots face decades of poverty in retirement.
More than four out of ten questioned by Scottish Widows admitted they hadn't considered how they would survive when they gave up work. Almost as many optimistically said they would look to their children for financial support, while one in seven expected the state to cover their costs.
According to Aviva, 50 to 65 year olds underestimate the length of their retirement by up to eight years. Women put the average lifespan for a reasonably healthy person at 84 years, while men say it is 80, but they could well live to 89 and 88 respectively.
A survey by HSBC found that despite almost six out of ten UK workers worrying they won't have enough to retire on, the economic downturn has prompted more than four out of ten to cut their pension savings or stop altogether. Just over half of those taking part in the HSBC survey said they simply couldn't afford to save enough and a third said paying off debts was preventing them.

Too young to die, too old to live

There's no question that the population's aging is of major importance, and that it will change the whole tenor of social life health care, the consumer culture, architecture, living arrangements, and even population sex ratios, since women live longer than men. But the real crisis for capitalism and its governments is that the costs of health care and pensions will grow, something that's usually presented as a "burden" on the non elderly members of society. Older people are not to be cared for, even cherished they're a cost that has to be minimised in the name of fiscal prudence, growth, and productivity. Unless older people are to starve, some provision for their income must be made. In pre -industrial societies, where life is short, people tend to work until they can no longer, and then their families take over. With industrialisation families break apart, and such informal arrangements can no longer be relied on.

According to the doomsters, there are man…

Poor Scots and rich ones

In 2011/12, there were 710,000 (14%) Scots in poor households of which 420,000 working age adults, 140,000 pensioners and 150,000 children were living in relative poverty, 80,000 children were living with combined material deprivation and low income.

Within the last two years, Scottish incomes have gone down from an average of £461 per week to £436.

Welfare measures including changes to eligibility for child tax credits and working tax credits which could, on average, mean that households will become around £700 per year worse off.

Child poverty levels are expected to soar in Scotland over the next few years by at least 50,000, taking the total number of children who live in families that struggle daily to provide to over 280,000.

Ian Marchant, CEO of  Scottish Power had received £1.45m in 2011.The company's annual report showed he earned a basic salary of £870,000, up by £30,000. He also received shares worth more than £1m from the firm's long-term bonus plan. His pension wa…

The old and the lonely

10,000 over-75s in Scotland will spend Christmas Day alone because their children are too busy to visit them, a new report claimed today. Across the UK, the survey found a total of 363,176 older people had children too busy to see them. The study by the older people’s charity WRVS said many elderly people were left isolated and lonely because their families had moved away, often to find work. But almost two-thirds of older people said they would not tell their children they were lonely because they did not want to “bother them”. In the Lothians, around 1700 over-75s will be on their own on Christmas Day.

Earlier research from the WRVS showed 27 per cent of Scots over-75s feel lonely – more than in any other part of the UK. 11 per cent of older people in Scotland lived at least one hour’s drive away from their nearest child, which meant almost half were visited just once every two to six months. The survey found lack of job security and changes in the labour market had increased the pr…

The other drug problem

A study found almost half of elderly people may be kept on sedatives that make them “easier and more convenient to manage” for much longer than necessary. Research has shown people with dementia who take these drugs are at a much higher risk of stroke.

The report by Dundee University and NHS Fife, carried out over a two-year ­period in Tayside, found two in five elderly people in care homes were taking the drugs – compared to just one in six who still lived in their homes in the ­community. It also found that seven in ten people who were taking the drugs when they went into the care homes were then never reassessed to see if they still needed them.

Dr Colin McCowan, deputy director of the Health Informatics Centre at Dundee University, and one of the authors of the report, said: “Some elderly people are taking these drugs to make it easier and more convenient for people to manage them and for them to cope. Often this could start when they are living at home, on their own, and when th…

Old and in the way?

160,000 pensioners in Scotland are living in relative poverty – with an income of less than 60 per cent of the national average. Prices for pensioners have risen 20 per cent since the beginning of the financial crisis. By contrast, inflation for UK households as a whole prices have risen 16 per cent. An older person living alone is said to have experienced a 26.5 per cent increase in the cost of the things they buy since 2007 when the current financial crisis began.

 Today’s pensioners are experiencing real hardship, with nearly half living on an income below £10,000 a year. Those with private pensions have experienced a worrying drop in the value of their pension because of low interest rates, which are being held down by the Bank of England’s policy of quantitive easing.
Age Concern Scotland said: “For older people who are living on a low, fixed income, life can be tough, with basic living costs such as food and energy still high and April’s pension increase barely kee…

Old, Sick and Broke

A person born today will be forced to work until they are 77 years old before they become eligible for a state pension, according to a new report. The report, by the world’s largest accountancy firm PwC, also states that people in their late 30s today can expect to work until they are 70 before they can claim their state pension. The prospect of 70 and 80-year-olds in the workforce will soon become a reality, according to Professor Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University Management School.

Alison Fleming, head of pensions at PwC in Scotland, said: “The era of retiring in your 60s is facing extinction with many people born today facing a future of work from 17 through to 77."

Age Scotland said that poorer people live shorter lives and so will have to sacrifice a larger portion of their retirement under the new plans.

Lindsay Scott, a spokesman for Age Scotland, said “Do not rely on the government to make provisions for your old age as …

Drugging our old folk

Elderly patients in care homes across Scotland are being prescribed powerful drugs for long periods of time without proper checks on whether the medication is needed. In some cases, frail patients are being kept on multiple and potentially harmful doses for up to two decades without doctors or staff questioning whether they are necessary. Patients are often kept on a mix of drugs for health problems that may have resolved over time.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Scotland (RPSS) in a report calls for more powers for pharmacists to review patients’ medical records. Pharmacists say they are becoming “increasingly concerned” about patients’ safety.

 Drugs regularly handed out to elderly patients include anti-psychotic medicines for dementia. These are classed as high-risk because of their links to heart problems and strokes, yet some patients remain on these far longer than is required. Other drugs could be causing …

The old neglected again

Older patients are “not safe” on hospital wards in Scotland because of a lack of qualified nurses to care for them according to Royal College of Nursing (RCN) findings. The report suggests there is just one nurse caring for nearly ten patients on old people’s wards. A survey of almost 1,700 nurses found that 78 per cent said comforting and talking to patients was not done or done inadequately on their last shift because of low staff numbers. Some 59 per cent said promoting mobility and self-care was left undone or unfinished, with 34 per cent saying they could not provide patients with food and drink, and 33 per cent claiming they were unable to fully help patients to the toilet or manage incontinence.

The RCN warned there was a danger that “care becomes compromised” and said that many nurses say “they are too busy to provide the standard of care they would like”. The report said: “Older people in Scotland are being let down by a lack of professionally qualified nurses in hospitals, de…

Your golden years - thats a laugh!

One in eight Scots will retire this year saddled with debts, research has claimed. The study found that 18% of those due to retire this year in the UK will be in debt. On average, those planning to retire this year with debts will face repayments of £260, around a fifth (19 per cent) of their expected £1290 a month income.

The average amount owed by those wrapping up their working life is around £38,200, with mortgages and credit cards making up the bulk of the debt. The figure is £5000 higher than the year before. The study found half of those with debts still owed money on their home loan and more than half (51%) were struggling with their credit card bills.

Citizens Advice Scotland said older Scots were saddled with "staggering amounts of debt". Its own research, published last year, found that the average unsecured debt, excluding mortgages, was £17,767. Susan McPhee of CAS said: "That's a staggering amount of debt to service, and still keep warm and put …

Is it accidental?

Adults and children from the most deprived areas of Scotland are twice as likely to die from an accidental injury than those from the most affluent postcodes, new figures show.

Some 1,364 deaths were recorded in 2010 in an Office of National Statistics as due to “unintentional injuries” , “Unintentional injury” is the NHS classification used where the victim has not deliberately inflicted injury on him or herself, but is admitted to hospital or dies as a result, such as road accidents, poisoning, and violent crimes like stabbings and shootings. However, the vast majority were from falls. Of these deaths, the bottom fifth of the population in terms of deprivation was listed as having a Standard Mortality Ratio for children of 119.3, compared with just 54.7 in the top fifth. Figures for adults were similar with an SMR of 125.2 for the bottom 20 per cent and 65.1 for the top 20 per cent.

It is thought that sub-standard housing, poor health and more crime in deprived areas (as wel…

Doom and gloom

Despite record low interest rates, falling by more than one-fifth since in 2008 the cost of owning and running a home in the UK has risen over the last year.

Bank of Scotland research found that soaring gas, electricity and main-tenance costs were the main causes of the rise. It showed that the average annual cost associated with owning and running a home rose by 1.4%, or £116, from £8525 in March 2010 to £8641 in March 2011. Utility costs were up by £102 on average and maintenance costs by £33.

Bank of Scotland housing economist Suren Thiru said: “Household finances remain under pressure with the significant drop in mortgage payments since 2008 mostly offset by increases in other household bills. Rising utility bills have been a clear driver behind this, along with increases in maintenance costs. The current strain on household finances is particularly concerning at a time when earnings growth remains weak.”

Another study revealed over-50s are suffering a drop in their quality of life a…

old and young suffer

Save the Children said its research revealed there are 90,000 children in Scotland - or one in 10 - living in what they term the most "severe poverty" and the charity said they feared that number would rise "dramatically" due to Scots having the lowest chance of finding work in the UK.

In January this year, Glasgow had Scotland's highest proportion of youngsters in severe poverty at 18%, followed by North Ayrshire, West Dunbartonshire and Clackmannanshire at 14%, and Dundee at 12%.

The charity said Glasgow had almost 18 people chasing every job vacancy, and that in West Dunbartonshire there are more than 36 people vying for every job.

Douglas Hamilton, Save the Children's head of Scotland, said: "Urgent action is required in Scotland's most deprived areas or we will end up with a lost generation. Some of these children will grow up living in households with no working adults - they have never seen a parent or grandparent work and this becomes the…

Dying Old

In The Herald Socialist Courier reads that 50% of the time that people spend in hospital over a lifetime occurs in the 12 months before they die. In a new book, Professor Phil Hanlon, a former adviser to the Scottish Executive, argues the elderly should be prescribed far fewer drugs and given fewer tests and procedures as they reach serious physical decline.

He said: “It is not that I would discard such people. I would simply give them a more human and humane approach, which would use less intensive NHS facilities. The big debating point is: would people die earlier? And the answer I would give to that is we do not know. You might actually live longer if you do not have all the stress associated with going to the hospital for treatment and healthcare-associated infections. We all get to that stage in life where your systems begin to shut down, albeit slowly, and medicine cannot reverse that. If you treat the person as if you are going to reverse that, you actually do them harm and that…

old and starving

Almost twice as many pensioners in the Lothians are admitted to hospital with malnutrition than anywhere else in Scotland, figures have shown. Latest figures show six malnourished people over the age of 65 are now being treated every week, a rise of around a dozen on last year. A mixture of care cutbacks and the increasing number of elderly residents in the area have been suggested for the cases.

Experts said the majority of victims would be elderly people who lived alone and were "under the radar" as far as local authority support services were concerned.

Phyllis Herriot, acting secretary of the Scottish Pensioners' Forum, said: "This is a very sad figure, and quite awful for those involved. It's horrible to think that this can happen in this day and age. There have been a lot of cutbacks, not just in Edinburgh but across the board. Sheltered Housing complexes are losing their wardens, home-help visits that used to be an hour are now cut to half an hour, and thos…

old age , same old story

The average Scottish male will be able to claim just five years of the state pension before he dies, under the new government plans to raise the retirement age.

ALMOST seven in ten British adults believe they will have to work beyond their pension age to give themselves a comfortable retirement, a new study has revealed.
In 2005 just 52 per cent of workers said they would have to work longer and 82 per cent planned to retire ahead of the state pension age. In 2005 the average male worker planned to retire at 60 years, with women targeting 59. But while a third of people would like to retire between the ages of 61 and 65, according to the latest report, 29 per cent now believe they will not be able to give up work until they are at least 66.

After a lifetime of toil many workers look forward to the comfort and leisure of old age. Alas, for many it is just another of capitalism’s illusions. Research published by Aviva yesterday showed that many people over 55 are likely to struggle to fu…

One Country - Two Nations

In a study Scotland’s wealthiest suburb has a life expectancy of 87.7 years, while a boy born in the poorest area of Glasgow can expect to die at 54.
A child born in Calton, in the East End of Glasgow, is three times as likely to suffer heart disease, four times as likely to be hospitalised and ten times as likely to grow up in a workless household than a child in the city's more prosperous western suburbs.
A boy born in Bearsden, Milngavie, Lenzie, Clarkston or Kilmacolm can expect to live to over 80, according to data for 1998-2002. But a journey to the eastern side of Glasgow finds life expectancy plunging by two decades. Male life expectancy in Dalmarnock, Calton, Kinning Park and Townhead is below 60: Britain, as a country, passed this mark during the Second World War.

The NHS data can separate the counntry into two : "Prime Scotland", which comprises the best 100 neighbourhoods, and "Third Scotland", where life expectancy is closer to the third world.
If Pri…

old and in the way

A quarter of UK pensioners feel their lives are getting worse.

Michelle Mitchell from Age Concern and Help the Aged said: "Loneliness, depression, poverty and neglect blight the lives of millions of older people and for many, evidence shows the situation is getting worse, not better...."

Yet all the charities can do is make plaintive pleas to government for reforms . To be frank, campaigning charities like Age Concern and Help the Aged have got no chance at all of getting governments to change their practice of putting profits before people. And it is not because they believe merely in lobbying that dooms them to failure. As long as the capitalist system continues to exist, its economic laws will operate to put profits before people, and governments will have no choice but to dance to this tune.