Glad To Be Grey

Over-55s 'more likely to vote than any other age group'

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Older voters will be more influential in the 2010 General Election than ever before, a charity for the elderly has said.

Age UK – formed from the merger of Age Concern and Help the Aged – says research shows that the over-55s are almost twice as likely to vote than 18-24-year-olds, that people aged 55 and over will cast four out of every 10 votes and that they make up the majority in many marginal seats.

In the Hammersmith constituency, which includes Shepherd's Bush, 32.1% of voters fall into the over-55 age bracket, according to the research conducted for the charity by De Montfort University.

Michelle Mitchell‚ Age UK Charity Director‚ said: “This research shows that older people’s votes cannot be taken for granted and that many people are not lifelong supporters of one political party. It also illustrates that when we talk about older voters‚ we’re talking about individuals‚ not a voting bloc. Just as with all ages‚ the over 60s care about a variety of issues and their decisions are based on families‚ hopes and worries for the future.”

Age UK say they are calling on parliamentary candidates to commit to key election pledges to improve the lives of older people including: reforming the 'failing' social care system‚ improved pensions‚ axing ageism and ending forced retirement‚ making the NHS fit for later life‚  enabling older people to play a greater role in society.

We asked our local parliamentary candidates to give us their views:

 

 



Shaun Bailey

Conservative Party

 

 

 

Rollo Miles
Green Party

Portrait of Merlene Emerson.

 

 

 


Merlene Emerson
Liberal Democrats

In 1997, Britain had one of the best pension systems in the world. Unfortunately, the past 13 years have seen this once exemplary system become extremely fragile. It now fails to offer the security and dignity that our older population deserves.

I don't believe Gordon Brown set out to intentionally make life difficult for the elderly, but that is exactly what has resulted from his £100 billion stealth tax raid on pensions. Also, our pension system is now extremely complicated and almost impossible to navigate. Many who are of an older age are now feeling frightened about whether their pensions will ever provide the security intended.

Conservatives have pledged to restore the earnings link and increase the basic state pension, end the effective obligation to buy an annuity at 75 and introduce a new, voluntary home protection scheme to help stop people having to sell their homes to pay for residential care. We will also keep the winter fuel allowance, increase the basic state pension and protect free bus passes for pensioners.

People often say that you can judge a country by how it treats the elderly. Conservatives believe that people shouldn't be fearful of retirement. They should look forward to it with confidence.

 

Let’s start with decent pensions. After 13 years of Labour rule, we still have unacceptable levels of poverty. It is particularly offensive that 25% of pensioners still live in poverty.

The Green Party would introduce a Citizen’s Pension. We need a new system of Citizen’s Pensions.

The Citizen’s Pension would be paid unconditionally to all pensioners in the UK (independent of contribution record) at the rate of the official poverty line
(currently £170pw for someone living alone, and the rate would be £300pw for couples), and would be linked to average earnings. It would also be paid to, and up-rated for, the one million pensioners living abroad.

Housing Benefit and disability benefits would continue to be paid. The demeaning Pension Credits would be abolished.

On healthcare: Keep the health service free – abolish prescription charges, reintroduce free eye tests and NHS dental treatment for all, and ensure NHS chiropody is widely available.

In particular, maintain the principle of a free NHS by implementing in England and
Wales the scheme that provides free social care to the elderly in Scotland. If the
Scots can do it, so can the rest of us. Ensure that all cost-effective treatments
are available to all patients who need them. Provide accessible, local community health centres that provide a wide range of services, including out-of-hours care, and are an additional tier of healthcare rather than a replacement for your GP.

Make public transport public:
Simplify fares for all public transport, with discounted fares for off-peak journeys
and for those with low incomes. Support free local transport for pensioners.
Return the railways, tube system and other light railway systems, including both
track and operations, to public ownership.

I believe the way older people are treated is the mark of a fair society.
Older people have worked hard and contributed to our society for decades –
they deserve a fair deal. Sadly, this hasn’t materialised under the current Labour government.

The Liberal Democrats would do things differently. We would immediately restore the link between the basic state pension and earnings, as well as increasing the state pension annually. Our plans to reform the tax system by increasing the income tax threshold to £10,000 would also save most pensioners around £100 a year.

For those who wish to remain in work, the Liberal Democrats would scrap the
compulsory retirement ages and would give people direct control over their pension by scrapping the rules that force the purchase of annuities when reaching 75.

There is also a serious long-term crisis facing older people in the sustainability for providing long term care. A Liberal Democrat Government would establish an independent commission to develop future proposals for long-term care that will be sustainable. We would also offer a week’s respite for the one million carers who spend up to 50 hours every week looking after sick relatives.

The problems facing older people have often been treated like a political
football – this is unacceptable. Only the Liberal Democrats have
fully-costed plans to ensure that later life is a life worth living.

Michelle Mitchell‚ Age UK Charity Director‚ said: “An ageing society presents tremendous opportunities that should rightly be celebrated‚ yet at the same time we have a big challenge ahead to improve the experience of later life for people now and for generations to come. Alongside climate change‚ population ageing is the greatest global transition we will face this century.

“Many older people and their families have experienced poor treatment from a crumbling‚ underfunded social care system which can’t cope with demand. Everyday people face age discrimination in employment‚ medical treatment and financial services‚ leaving them feeling worthless and shut out of society. And later life continues to be ignored when it comes to building communities and providing services‚ despite the huge demographic shift we are seeing.

“The success of any party in this election depends on their commitment to act on the issues which are most important to older people who are more likely to vote than any other age group. Older people are fed up with second class services and we will support them to demand action from their local candidates on care‚ age discrimination‚ the NHS and pensions.”

26 April 2010