Patrick Christys: We don’t respect the elderly in this country

Research by Age UK found that nearly a million people aged over 65 do not have anyone to celebrate Christmas with this year.

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We don’t respect the elderly in this country. We don’t care about them, all too often we don’t care for them. Certainly, in Britain, it’s no fun getting old.

Research by Age UK found that nearly a million people aged over 65 do not have anyone to celebrate Christmas with this year.

It’s supposed to be a time for celebration, family, unity, generosity and good cheer. But. This year, around 675,000 pensioners say they’re feeling fed up about being alone, with as many as 970,540 saying they would not have anyone to share Christmas with.

The research found some 625,000 said they were feeling depressed, around 400,000 felt forgotten and around 250,000 spoke of being anxious.

One elderly person, a 94-year-old lady called Connie lives alone and she said she felt “scared” that her voice was not working properly as she spoke to so few people during lockdown.

We all remember national treasure Captain Sir Tom Moore who managed to raise nearly £40m for the NHS by walking up and down his garden.

One thing that really stands out to me about all of this is that he says he felt invisible following the death of his wife in 2006, apparently he tried to get a job at the age of 86 and people laughed at him.

So I wanted to bring attention to something I think is long overdue – a dedicated fundraising and awareness day for our senior citizens.

The Captain Tom Foundation is working alongside Dame Esther Rantzen on its latest venture - Captain Tom Day - to help make sure the older generation "feels seen, heard and, most importantly, valued by society".

The details are still being finalised but the idea is almost like a Children in Need day for the elderly.

I think this is absolutely fantastic.

There are 12.4m people aged 65 and over in the UK, there are 3.2 million aged over 80 and 1.6 million aged over 85.

That’s a huge number of people that, if we ignore, if we don’t respect, if we look through rather than look directly at…is actually bad for Britain.

I’ll never be able to understand why there is such little respect for the elderly. By definition, if it wasn’t for them then we wouldn’t be here. Many elderly people, like Captain Sir Tom Moore, fought during the war, they literally saved Britain.

And then they helped rebuild it. Many elderly people had very humble beginnings and were forced to mend and make do. They crippled themselves so that future generations could leapfrog up in society.

The accumulated wisdom that comes with the elderly is a tremendous resource for us. Their experiences and their knowledge have real value, the advice they can offer, they’ve seen it all come and go and far from ignoring them we should be actively picking their brains and trying to learn from them.

Many elderly people voted for Brexit, and then many Remainers sought to make the half-joke that they’ll be dead soon by the time we have another referendum. How massively disrespectful is that? Old people shouldn’t vote because they won’t be around to see the consequences of their decisions. It should be the other way around – we should be trusting them to make the decisions.

I worry that with the breakdown of the nuclear family in Britain, it can leave a lot of old people isolated but I wonder, too, if it is removing the traditional sense of family unity and the sense of duty younger generations have towards the old.

The online world has left many elderly people marginalised and frozen out – many struggle with online banking, or ringing up their gas and electricity firm only to be told by an automated robot voice that they have to do it on their laptop instead.

Virtual GP appointments – old people often struggle with those to the point that they may be too afraid to actually arrange one.

I welcome this move by the wonderful Captain Sir Tom Moore Foundation and Esther Rantzon, who set up the Silver Line Charity, to have a dedicated day for our elderly. But it shouldn’t just be one day, it should be every day. It’s time that we did more to look after a generation of people who looked after us.