Friday, 21 July 2017

Britain is a country where old men don't live, but do work, longer and longer

In a statement n the House of Commons this week, David Gauke, the Government's Work and Pensions Secretary, had some unwelcome news for about 7 million young men and women in their 30s and early 40s : when they become old men and women, in the late 2030s, their state pension age will rise from 67 to 68. This would happen to them, rather than the generation coming behind them as previously planned.

He said implementing the proposals would create : “Fairness across the generations, and the certainty which people need to plan for old age.” Apparently, by making them all work longer he wanted Britain to be : “The best country in the world to grow old” and failing to act “would be irresponsible and place an extremely unfair burden on younger generations.”
This 7 million have to thank former CBI Director General, John Cridland who published a review in March which recommended accelerating the planned increase in the pension age to prevent the costs of the state pension becoming unsustainable. Graham Vidler, the Director of External Affairs at the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association, referred to this group as "the sandwich generation" who "are also those most at risk of inadequate private saving – they have not had the same access to final salary pension schemes as their parents and are too old to enjoy the full benefits of automatic enrolment that their children will see."

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said it was “astonishing that this is being announced the day after new authoritative research suggested that the long-term improvement in life expectancy is stalling.” She was referring to Sir Michael Marmot, the Director of the 'Institute of Health Equity' at University College London and an expert in the links between poverty and ill-health, who has produced a report which shows that the trend that old men and women in Britain could expect to leave longer and longer is no more.

It was the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Debbie Abrahams, who described the changes as “anything but fair” and argued that many pensioners faced a “toxic cocktail” of ill-health long before they reached 68. She might well have been referring to those living in the pink to red areas in the West and North on the map below where levels of social and economic deprivation are forecast to remain high.


Men's life expectancy in England and Wales in 2030 as projected by The Lancet :



Thursday, 20 July 2017

Britain is no country for old men like Noel Conway who wish to live no older

Noel Conway, who, at 67 years old, is scarce old, wants to die or rather he wants the right to die at a time of his own choosing, but as the law stands in Britain at the moment, he cannot do this. If a doctor was to help him end his life, he would face 14 years in prison. He wants this right because he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2014. His condition is incurable and he is not expected to live beyond the next 12 months. He has said : “I am going to die, and I have come to terms with this fact. But what I do not accept is being denied the ability to decide the timing and manner of my death. I am not prepared to suffer right to the end, nor do I want to endure a long, drawn-out death in a haze of morphine."

His High Court Hearing, in which three senior judges will consider his plea to be allowed to arrange his death, began this week and is scheduled to last five days. Noel is supported by 'Dignity in Dying' and other organisations campaigning to change the 1961 Suicide Act. Last week several hundred supporters staged a protest on a Thames river boat outside the Houses of Parliament after which he said : “In the past months I have been struck by the number of people who, like me, want the right to choose how we die. Today has shown the huge strength of feeling of people who want the right to a dignified death.”

People like Noel, who seek help to end their lives, are currently forced to travel to a clinic in Switzerland and at the moment one person a fortnight travels to Dignitas from Britain to do just that.

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of Humanists UK, said : “It is completely wrong that people who are of sound mind but terminally ill or incurably suffering are denied the choice to die with dignity. The deliberate extension of suffering as a matter of public policy is a stain on our humanity. The majority of the public want change but as long as Parliament is unwilling to act, it is up to brave individuals such as Noel to fight for all our rights. We will always stand with such courageous and public-spirited champions.”

Noel's lawyers will ask the Court to declare that the blanket ban on assisted dying under the Suicide Act is contrary to the Human Rights Act and will argue that as a terminally ill, mentally competent adult, his right to a private life, which includes the right to make decisions on the end of his life, is unnecessarily restricted by current laws. His aim is to bring about a change in the law that would legalise assisted dying for those who are terminally ill and are assessed as having six months or less to live.

The last time a right to die case was considered in detail by the courts was in 2014 when the Supreme Court asked Parliament to reconsider the issue and after debating the subject, Parliament rejected making any changes to the law. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-38500873

“The option of an assisted death should be available to me, here in this country, in my final six months of life – this is what I am fighting for. It would bring immense peace of mind and allow me to live my life to the fullest, enjoying my final months with my loved ones until I decide the time is right for me to go."


Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Britain is a country where most old men can no longer expect to live longer and longer

Sir Michael Marmot, the Director of the 'Institute of Health Equity' at University College London and an expert in the links between poverty and ill-health, has produced a report which shows that :

* the trend that old men and women in Britain could expect to leave longer and longer is no more. In fact, a century-long rise in life expectancy has stalled since 2010, when austerity brought about deep cuts in the National Health Service and Social Care spending.

* in 1919 men lived for an average of 52.5 years and women for 56.1 years and by 2010 that had reached 77.1 and 82,6 but by 2015 it had only crept up to 79.6 and 83.1.

* life expectancy at birth had been going up so fast that women were gaining an extra year of life every five years and men every three-and-a-half years and now the rate of increase was, according to Marmot : "pretty close to having ground to a halt" and “It is not inevitable that it should have levelled off.” 

In Sir Michael's opinion, the “miserly” levels of spending on health and social care in recent years, at a time of rising health need linked to the ageing population. had affected the amount and quality of care older people receive. “If we don’t spend appropriately on social care, if we don’t spend appropriately on health care, the quality of life will get worse for older people and maybe the length of life, too.” 

Sir Michael, interviewed on the BBC Radio 4 'Today' Programme this morning said that his Report had identified two things : "What we had expected over time, this relentless increase in life expectancy, improvement in health has stalled and the second is that there's dramatic differences by where you live and level of deprivation. So, the more affluent, the longer our life expectancy."

"What we see, classically, that life expectancy and health is worse in the North of the country, better in the South. The best stop is Kensington and Chelsea. But what we also see is that within areas dramatic differences by levels of deprivation. Take Kensington and Chelsea : the most wealthy local authority in the country and the level of inequality, the difference is 16 years of life expectancy at the bottom end and it's no accident that Grenfell Tower is in the poor part of Kensington."

In other words, the richest old men in Britain, continue to live longer and longer, but the less well off, do not.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Britain is still a country for and says "Happy 70th Birthday" to Wilko Johnson

Wilko, former rhythm and blues, 'Dr Feelgood' guitarist and founding father of the English punk movement is 70 years old today. Showing fortitude in the face of death, when he was told that he had terminal pancreatic cancer in 2013, he spoke of the strange "euphoria" he experienced since and said the news had made him feel "vividly alive" and had lifted the bouts of depression he had previously experienced.

"Every little thing you see, every cold breeze against your face, every brick in the road, you think 'I'm alive, I'm alive' - I hope I can hang onto that. I've had a fantastic life. When I think about the things that have happened to me and the things I've done, I think anybody who asks for more would just be being greedy. I don't wanna be greedy.This position I'm in is so strange, in that I do feel fit and yet I know death is upon me. I'm not hoping for a miracle cure or anything. I just hope it spares me long enough to do these gigs - then I'll be a happy man."

What you possibly didn't know about Wilko, that he :

* was born in 1947 on Canvey Island, Essex, survived the floods of 1953 and shares his nostalgia at the sight of the River Thames with Jools Holland : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpBbjyfCB2o

at home in the 1950s and 60s was hit by his violent, ex-soldier father who died when he was a teenager attending grammar school at Westcliff High School for Boys and played in several local groups, before going to the University of Newcastle to study English, Anglo-Saxon literature and ancient Icelandic sagas.

* after graduating, travelled overland on the hippy trail to India and Afghanistan, before returning to Essex to play with the 'Pigboy Charlie Band', which evolved into 'Dr Feelgood', where he developed his own style, coupling choppy playing with novel dress of  black suit and unfashionable pudding basin haircut and jerky movements on stage. He also played riffs and solos at the same time on a vintage Fender Telecaster without using a pick which allowed him to move without fear of losing it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XaybV46MA6E&t=0m57s

* featured in the BBC4 series, 'Punk Britannia' in 2012, which stressed the importance of Dr Feelgood as 'pub rockers, a generation of bands sandwiched between 60s hippies and mid-70s punks who will help pave the way towards the short, sharp shock of punk'.

* reviewing his 2012 autobiography, 'Looking back at Me', Mark Blake of 'Q Magazine' said of Dr Feelgood : 'In the mid-70s the band's brutish R and B and their guitarist's eye-popping thousand-yard stare inspired a young John Lydon, Paul Weller and Suggs from Madness.'

* left the band in 1977 and joined the 'Solid Senders', then, in 1980, Ian Dury's band, 'The Blockheads' before forming the 'Wilko Johnson Band' and continued to pursue his musical career in the 1980s and 90s.

* in 2009, appeared in the documentary film 'Oil City Confidential' and was described by  reviewer, Philip French as : 'a wild man, off stage and on, funny, eloquent and charismatic' and director, Julien Temple  as  'an extraordinary man – one of the great English eccentrics.'

* had Peter Bradshaw of the 'Guardian' say of him : 'the best rockumentary yet, the most likeable thing about this very likable film is the way it promotes Wilko Johnson as a 100-1 shot for the title of Greatest Living Englishman.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CZMLs8Ke40&t=0m37s

* made his acting debut, cast in the role of mute executioner 'Ilyn Payne', in the HBO fantasy series 'Game of Thrones' after the producers had seen him in 'Oil City Confidential' and said :
"They said they wanted somebody really sinister who went around looking daggers at people before killing them. That made it easy. Looking daggers at people is what I do all the time, it's like second nature to me."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXNbMtEqpBE&t=0m22s

* in 2013 made a tv appearance with 'Madness',
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFSZzfAvVgI , fell ill and then recovered to play at the Wickham Festival in Hampshire in August and in the Spring of the following year, appeared in support of Status Quo and played in collaboration with Roger Daltrey on 'Going Back Home' : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeoKCJNI-k4&t=0m04s

* faced his illness head on and went on a 'Farewell Tour' and recalled that he was : "extremely calm" when he "felt this extreme sense of elation" because he believed : "Staring at death gives you profound feelings. Everything seems more vivid. Walking down the street everything seemed sharper, brighter, more in focus.”


* at the age of 68 in 2014, had his pancreas, spleen, part of his stomach and part of his small and large intestine removed in a nine-hour operation at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge where Surgeon, Emmanuel Huguet, who removed the 7lb 11oz tumour, said : “It’s no exaggeration to say Wilko’s been taken to the limit of what a human being can take.”

* in the year which followed, during which doctors said he should be dead, had further tests which revealed that his pancreatic cancer was, in fact, a neuroendocrine tumour, a rare and less aggressive malignancy.

* now that he appears to be out of the woods with his cancer, says that he laments the loss of that feeling of elation : “I wish I could regain it. It’s like a powerful dream that has faded. Feeling like that almost made having cancer worth it.”

  * had said :
“I always had this idea that when I grew I old I would be sitting in an Oxford college room with the sun slanting through the mullioned windows. I would be reading medieval poetry and I would be wise. The nearer I got to being old, the more I realised the wisdom wasn’t coming. So I’m just as confused as ever. Now I won’t actually grow either old or wise.” 


Wilko may never become wise, but now at least, may become old.