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Lockdowns don’t protect the elderly Generational conflict will define post-pandemic Britain

Credit: In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty

Credit: In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty


January 27, 2021   5 mins

While Covid-19 has been scything through Western society, in the past year an altogether different – and possibly more insidious – threat has been brewing: the prospect of a conflict between the young and elderly. As soon as the pandemic struck, commentators seized upon fears that the heartless young would shrug off the pandemic as a “Boomer Remover” and refuse to curtail their sociable behaviour. As a researcher of generational conflict, my own concern was that politicians would adopt a different yet equally divisive logic that has become dominant over the past decade — one which holds that the elderly are an unsustainable burden on our society.

Initially, however, the opposite seemed to be true. The Government’s official messaging dictated that the entire population had a moral duty to “save lives”. In response, younger people, by and large, complied with the restrictions and showed high levels of concern about the deadly impact of Covid on the elderly. Yet when we look more deeply at the rhetoric underpinning today’s emergency measures, and the rumbling discussion about how we will pay for them when the bills come pouring in, a familiar theme emerges.

For the past few decades, debates about population ageing have been increasingly framed around the presumption of diminishing social resources, with retired people having taken more than their “fair share” while younger generations are left to pay off public debt from their shrinking wage packets.

This has given rise to an outlook of generationalism — the exaggeration of generational differences to account for economic, political, and cultural problems. It is essentially a prejudice masquerading as economic and social analysis, one which relies on cherry-picking data from particular historical moments and drawing on poorly conceptualised categories to make crude generalisations.

Take the most widely-aired example of the generationalist outlook: the claim that the cohort born in the two decades following the Second World War  — the “Baby Boomers” — were uniquely blessed by the post-war economic boom, the developing welfare state, world peace, rising house prices and “gold-plated” pension schemes. According to this narrative, the Boomers’ determination to live life to the full, and refusal to die before their time, has resulted in a series of policies designed to protect the elderly at the expense of the young. Therefore, argue the generationalists, the only solution is to redistribute wealth and power from the old to the young.

I have written extensively about the problem of generationalism, and its negative impact on old and young alike. The tale of untrammelled Boomer privilege skates over the significant differences of class, gender, and ethnicity. Nor is there any mention of difficult historical moments — the Sixties are always talked about, the Seventies barely mentioned. Such mendacious myth-making fosters resentment among the young, who soon find themselves trapped in a generationalist narrative. Told that older people “had it all”, it’s only natural for younger generations to lower their expectations about what they can expect society to do for them.

Generationalism also has a pernicious impact on policy thinking. Since the concept of “intergenerational equity” was first formulated, in the USA in the 1980s, social policy scholars have used it as a smokescreen for less palatable arguments about the need to restructure welfare states — in particular, by limiting entitlements to older people. Dig into today’s grandiose claims about “generational fairness” and little has changed. They generally amount to little more than what I have termed “granny-mugging”: the demand to abolish the “triple lock” on state pensions, to scrap free TV licences and bus passes, and to make older people pay more for social care provision.

None of this, of course, will help younger people. Indeed, given that the children of today are the pensioners of the future, such penny-pinching reforms are likely to hit them hardest in the end. More broadly, by presenting economic and social problems as conflicts between generations, we avoid tackling far more profound causes of inequality, such as sluggish economic growth and inadequate welfare infrastructure.

Far from pushing back against this approach, the UK’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed its dangerous consequences. As a disease, Covid-19 causes disproportionate suffering among the elderly. Yet in social and economic terms, the lockdown measures could cause disproportionate suffering among the young.

This has given the pandemic many of the ingredients for a generational conflict. In fact, it seems to me that generationalism already underlies two dangerous myths about our response to Covid-19. The first is that the extraordinary social experiment known as “lockdown” was done to protect the elderly. The second is that the focus of future policy should be about paying off the consequent debt.

Thus channelling these myths, Martin Daunton, emeritus professor of economic history at the University of Cambridge, is able to argue: “To tackle the intergenerational divide, society’s protection of  Baby Boomers by locking down the economy must be matched by social and economic policies to compensate the young.”

It bears noting that Daunton presents lockdown as an attempt to protect the “Baby Boomers”, rather than the more vulnerable 80-plus cohort. This is a classic generationalist’s sleight-of-hand. Nobody wants to look as though they are having a go at Captain Tom, so the “Boomer” category is routinely deployed to capture both the relatively fit Boomers and the growing numbers of very old people.

More importantly, the myth that lockdown has been about protecting the elderly can be dispelled by considering how they have actually been treated in the past year. During the first wave, the scandal of discharging Covid-positive patients to care homes revealed how literally policy-makers had taken to heart the imperative to “protect the NHS” — even if it resulted in the virus spreading among the most vulnerable.

In that spirit, the “stay at home” orders were essentially an instruction to elderly people that if they ventured outside, they would not only be responsible for their own deaths but could also add to the burden on hospitals. Now, with vaccines offering a release from almost a year of isolation, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer instructs that they must not act with “wild abandon and go off to the bingo halls”.

Yet it is the notion that it should be down to the elderly to “compensate the young” once the pandemic subsides that is the most callous of the generationalist blows. Elderly people did not choose to be ravaged by Covid-19, and nor did they design lockdown as the predominant response. Insofar as lockdown has brought disproportionate disadvantages to the young, politicians should be taking responsibility, as well as considering how to address them going forwards. Engaging citizens of all generations in a discussion about social policies would certainly be a good start.

For when we emerge from this crisis, it should be with a determination to confront the policy problems that Covid-19 has so cruelly exposed. The effective collapse of state education, soaring levels of unemployment, increases in poverty and the inadequacy of housing — all have been starkly revealed in the past year.

Solving these issues requires going beyond the divisive approach of generationalism, as demonstrated by the success of our age-stratified vaccination strategy — which, after all, is a clearly focused attempt to protect those most at risk from Covid-19. But when the time comes, the energy expended on protecting the elderly needs to be matched by a concerted attempt to free the young from lockdown. For if it isn’t, I fear that post-pandemic Britain will be shaken by a malign sense of generational injustice. And that really will be unhealthy.


Dr Jennie Bristow is a sociologist of generations and author of Stop Mugging Grandma


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Martin Price
Martin Price
3 years ago

Generational conflict along with all other intersectionality theories are about power and getting us – the electorate – fighting among ourselves. These theories only deflect attention from the true underlying problems and let governments off the hook.

Claire Olszanska
Claire Olszanska
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Price

Spot on.

Alka Hughes-Hallett
Alka Hughes-Hallett
3 years ago

I do not agree with the author’s views & this is a poor article from a “doctor” .
The pain has been suffered by both sides . The younger generation on turning old will remember not to take the privileges for granted .
” Elderly people did not choose to be ravaged by Covid-19″ – this is dumb – the young did not choose any of this either . The disease ( its airborne) just spreads without choice !
Do the elderly have any responsibility what so ever? Remember- NOT all elderly are dying ! Only perhaps the weakest or frailest & might I add – the fattest!
” But when the time comes, the energy expended on protecting the elderly needs to be matched by a concerted attempt to free the young from lockdown” – Repeating the obvious – but when is that time? There should NEVER have been a lockdown of the young ! No matter what the reasons are – multigenerational households included . Instead all focus in the summer should have been about getting people ( including the elderly) as fit as possible. After all it’s the pressure on the lungs that is so deadly. The thinner and healthier the person the less likely to die if this- WHATEVER THE AGE.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

Well said.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago

Brilliant answer. Could Britain be suffering more deaths because we are the fattest? Who else do we know who are fatter than us? The Americans.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Not just the fattest, but largely unhealthy, crowded and with mediocre public services including health.

Most of these things are fault of society as much as any elite.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

The message was “protect the NHS”. It obviously got this message and is not protecting us.

SUSAN GRAHAM
SUSAN GRAHAM
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

Where does personal responsibility come into the equation? So easy to blame ‘society’ or the government – neither of whom shove junk food into mouths, or alcohol/drugs….

Tom Fox
Tom Fox
3 years ago
Reply to  SUSAN GRAHAM

Anyone with any sense by last March who was a bit over weight started losing weight. I now weigh 11st 7. Last March I was 12st 10.

It isn’t rocket science as they say. You only had to watch the news to see the eulogies for NHS workers lost and the tales of young dead to spot that all of them were massively obese.

Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Why are we doing worse than the Americans then?

Tom Fox
Tom Fox
3 years ago
Reply to  Hilary Easton

Population density of the USA: 35.71 pe sq km

Population density of England: 432 per sq km

TIM HUTCHENCE
TIM HUTCHENCE
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Amongst the fattest, most densely populated, elderly populations in the world.
Plus we go on holiday abroad quite a lot (in the good old days anyway!) and we have international hub airports that receive a lot of visitors from overseas.
Plus we religiously count with Covid deaths – probably more rigorously than other countries.
There are probably more than a few other factors too, including care home errors at the start and PPE supply chain issues early on, prior immunity, mask take up, compliance, social norms etc etc
Those who tell you a simpler ‘version’ of a very complex story probably want Keir Starmer as PM ASAP and (with perfect hindsight of course!) would have locked us all up and closed all the borders in February 2020…

Tom Fox
Tom Fox
3 years ago
Reply to  TIM HUTCHENCE

I don’t envy Boris & Co their jobs at all, but grave errors were made in not immediately closing the borders in February. As an island nation, we could have largely avoided what happened as did Australia and New Zealand, whose out breaks have been limited and cauterised rapidly by tight quarantine regulations and meaningful isolation of incomers. Telling people coming from covid hot spots to isolate and leaving them to it shows an abysmal ignorance of selfish human nature and a naive trust that they will imprison themselves voluntarily.

Colin Macdonald
Colin Macdonald
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Fox

There’s islands and then there’s islands. You can swim to Britain, NZ on the other hand is a three hour flight from Australia, which itself is a long haul flight from any Covid hot-spot.

Jane Awdry
Jane Awdry
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Are the Brazilians even fatter?

Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
3 years ago

Do the elderly have any responsibility what so ever? Remember- NOT all elderly are dying ! Only perhaps the weakest or frailest & might I add – the fattest!

I don’t know whether you’ve noticed, but very few of the elderly are fat. I would consider 70 and over to qualify as elderly, and a lot of the fatter members of that generation are already dead.

Ronni Curtis
Ronni Curtis
3 years ago
Reply to  Pete Kreff

Clearly you don’t live in Wales where a great many over 70s are fat. As are those not yet classed as elderly.

SUSAN GRAHAM
SUSAN GRAHAM
3 years ago
Reply to  Ronni Curtis

I live in Wales and I agree, however I am English, over 70 and slim but am always amazed at the number of fat medical professionals there are – these people know the risks in ‘normal’ times but more so in the current climate. Photos posted of many people who have died show how many are grossly overweight.

Alka Hughes-Hallett
Alka Hughes-Hallett
3 years ago
Reply to  SUSAN GRAHAM

Spot on.
I am 55 and the same wt as I was in my 20s, not because I am lucky, but because I choose to be. I frequently go without dinner , it’s a bit like training your stomach , to stress it a bit. After a while, it’s not hard any more. We eat far too much generally. My friend was asked to loose wt by a doctor . She said that his (doctor’s) stomach was sitting on the table next to him. (Sorry to be so crude)

Tom Fox
Tom Fox
3 years ago
Reply to  Pete Kreff

You’re talking abject nonsense in saying that few elderly are fat.

Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Fox

I’m surprised that so many people disagree with me. Maybe I’m labouring under a delusion.

Next time I’m out and about I will make a point of looking at elderly people and seeing how fat they are.

Karl Schuldes
Karl Schuldes
3 years ago

Yeah, that’s the answer. Switch the battle from old v. young to fat v. thin.

Tom Fox
Tom Fox
3 years ago
Reply to  Karl Schuldes

Fta V thin is VERY relevant to the covid death rate. If you don’t know that, you should do.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago

Intergenerational “identity politics” is as ugly and counterproductive as all the other varieties.

Being a “younger boomer” much of my happiness stemmed from knowing that no more of our elder family members were going to be killed in a world war.

Perspective and context seems such a rare commodity these days.

Lillian Fry
Lillian Fry
3 years ago

No one asked us old people if we wanted the futures of our children and grandchildren compromised to save a few lives. Even in the oldest groups, the Covid survival rate is better than 90%!

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Lillian Fry

It was never about you; it’s been about the virtuous among us using you as mascots to demonstrate how much more they care about society than everyone else.

John Alexander
John Alexander
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

No, they are arrogant in making assumptions about our well being. My life is my reponsibility and not those who need to look good to their friends and whoever by virtue signalling.

Elizabeth Pienaar
Elizabeth Pienaar
3 years ago

I don’t know a single older person who wanted to be jailed in their retirement homes. My 87 year old mother has consistently said it’s the YOUNG and productive who should get the vaccines first.
It’s absolute insanity to close down society ‘just’ to protect the aged. But of course it’s not just the aged who get this…

Mike Doyle
Mike Doyle
3 years ago

Talking to a retired Doctor I suggested that the frontline medical staff should get the vaccine first – she couldn’t have disagreed more. It is the clinically vulnerable that are filling up the wards and who are dying and it is these sections of society that need the vaccine first.

Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Doyle

If health workers were dying at a greater rate than bin men and security guards (which they aren’t, I believe), it would be a no-brainer to give them the vaccine first.

But health workers are not the worst-affected professional category, not by a long chalk, so I would probably agree with that doctor.

SUSAN GRAHAM
SUSAN GRAHAM
3 years ago

Couldn’t agree more – I am in group 4 but would much prefer that teachers, police officers and all those who are on the front line were given the jab first. They have to go to work – I don’t

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago

The sadness of the lockdowns if they existed to save lives is:
They failed to save a lot of the known vulnerable.
They’ve cause much suffering and death for everyone else.

Our lockdowns have been such blunt instruments. We knew before Covid hit that it killed: the old, fat, frail and male.

It’s a bit like a bike rider who has taken safety on board and decided that instead of having a really good helmet, they’re going to have very mediocre body armour and a mediocre helmet. Now riding is a horrible and the important part likely to cause serious injury still isn’t well protected.

David Bottomley
David Bottomley
3 years ago

Some random thoughts.

If a younger generation wants to cut pensions – be careful what you wish for ! Years of paying off the costs of Covid, low employment and perhaps lower wages followed by the pension you asked for.

If Brexit doesn’t result in the much promised better days ahead then I can well see the younger, pro EU generation felling very hard done by as a result of the pro Brexit , gold plated pension older, Boomer generation.

I find it hard to understand why the various restrictions- lockdowns aren’t focussed on the older and otherwise more vulnerable amongst us. How many young, healthy people end up in hospital? Where is the sense, the logic in asking everyone to ‘ lockdown’. Some intelligence and imagination could have required all vulnerable to shield-lockdown and made funds available to create various support services, activities etc. Heavily resourced support would still be a whole lot cheaper than putting the whole country and economic activity into lockdown

charliebardswell
charliebardswell
3 years ago

I agree with the author insofar as stoking intergenerational conflict is unhelpful and ignores wide disparities within generational groups.

However, it is not unreasonable that the costs of Covid-19 are shared across society, young and old, rich and poor. Proposals to abolish the triple lock or perks for wealthy pensioners may not stem from envy, but rather a recognition that the ongoing costs of Covid-19 will require society to redirect it’s resources to healthcare and preventative measures and that will in turn cost money.

Maybe another way of looking at it – if we have to freeze child benefit or pensions, which do we choose, what is fair?

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago

“Costs…shared across society…” the elephant in the room is: China…this did not have to unfold as it did, China is complicit.

J StJohn
J StJohn
3 years ago

Nobody is arguing against sharing the costs of COVID19. It’s the LOCKDOWN that’s the problem. At the same time as crippling the ability of workers to pay for the lockdown, generally in proportion to youthfulness i.e. the less you are affected by the disease, the more you are damaged; there’s no recognition of the reality that, the only reason that so many old and economically people are still alive in order to be killed by this disease, is the already massive shift of resources away from the young to the health services. It’s unsustainable. fairness doesn’t come into it. our entire economy will be keeping old people alive.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  J StJohn

Not just health services but pensions and other services too.

There’s going to be more and more pensioners, they’ll not only be a simple relatively higher amount needing to be spent on health – they’ll be a relatively much higher number of voters – voters keen for higher pensions, free social care and a better health service.

Some people have joked that the UK is a Health Service with a Nuclear Deterrent. Everything else is slowly getting reduced.

High income potential young people will look at sky high taxes for increasingly poor services and move elsewhere.

Anna Borsey
Anna Borsey
3 years ago
Reply to  J StJohn

Nonsense! There are vast numbers of very obese young people (mainly females) and ditto youngish people of working age. Obesity causes diabetes and heart disease (infarcts etc.), and this is just the beginning. Young and younger people are also increasingly a burden on the NHS. It is nowadays commonplace to see young girls sporting a HUGE bottom, a vast amount of fat on their swollen bellies and around their waist, thighs like thick tree trunks, and enormous mammaries.

An aside:
Look at how very many grotesquely fat nurses there are working in the NHS!

amj305740
amj305740
3 years ago
Reply to  Anna Borsey

Obesity doesn’t cause diabetes and heart disease. Hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance cause diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Which on it’s turn is caused by an overconsumption of sugar and highly processed carbohydrates.

I do agree that it is a huge burden on healthcare. However it can be fixed / controlled and for most people it will take about 6 months. I did it myself.

The big issue I have is that the healthcare system is constructed as such that there is zero learning capacity and it is basically a medicine driven machinery that needs to be fixed, before it things can improve. Many so called progressive chronic diseases aren’t chronic and certainly not progressive.

When I found out that it all could be revered by simply fixing my diet and not even that drastically I was seriously pissed at the medical profession. I still am to I point that my trust in then has been seriously reduced.

Most of the issues in society are not the fault of people, but mostly due to poor policies

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
3 years ago
Reply to  amj305740

Many reasons for an individual to become obese.

Some genetic underpinnings here as well, as described at length by Giles Yeo on Jim Al-Khalili’s Life Scientific on BBC Radio 4 this week.

As with everything else in medicine and life, causes and remedies are not necessarily striaghtforward or simple.

Susie E
Susie E
3 years ago

These age old excuse doesn’t fly any more. These people can still use diet (high fat low carb) to loose weight and improve their health. It will work as effectively on them as anyone else. I bet the BBC has never given such a platform to an advocate for HFLC type diets, just ridicule. They suffer from the same problem as the NHS.

Susie E
Susie E
3 years ago
Reply to  amj305740

I’d like to second everything see sharp has said. I have never been overweight, but even I have felt the benefits of following the kind of diet see sharp speaks of. My thinking is clearer, my mood and energy levels are more stable and I don’t have to worry about what I eat (as long as it’s not carbs or heavily processed). I am doing this in order to prevent thchronic disease, mainly diabetes (which I think I may be predisposed to if I put on weight) and Alzheimers, which is being linked to insulin resistance and which there is a history of in my family. Everyone I know (not many people) who work for the NHS look at me weirdly when I explain this. They’ve been brainwashed by the pharmaceutical companies into believing drugs are the only way to fix things, but as we know drugs often make things worse by only making symptoms. Look up Dr Mark Gordon if you want to see the progress being made in curing PTSD in Veterans using diet and the correct vitamin regimens. Diet is everything!!

Claire Olszanska
Claire Olszanska
3 years ago
Reply to  amj305740

As regards diabetes 2 I disagree that medication is forced on people. I know two people who use diet to control it. One woman now in late 80s has controlled her type 2 for 12 years. Not the same everywhere and in fact the clear message I get from my health practice is good diet for everything. I of course don’t have to follow that because my civil liberties prevail (?!)

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

However, it is not unreasonable that the costs of Covid-19 are shared across society, young and old, rich and poor.
what are those who are pushing these mandates going to do to ‘share’ in the cost? Because none of them has missed a paycheck, and plenty of them have scoffed at the rules they impose on everyone else.

David Bottomley
David Bottomley
3 years ago

Not that this adds anything but I can see parallels with the promise of a green and pleasant land for returning WW1 soldiers. Returning soldiers found it was a far from green and pleasant land and the author might well be right to point to the possibility of younger generations returning from the world of lockdowns etc and finding nothing but unemployment, low wages and low social support benefits. It’s hard not to mention Brexit but if , at least in the short term, Brexit adds to the economic woes and prospects for younger people we can only hope that things do improve and quickly !

We need also to look at places like Japan where Government policy is geared around dealing with an ageing population – not by the crude , dumb cutting pensions and benefits but by developing opportunities for older people to contribute to society , intergenerational activities and living , self support communities for older people and much more.

I fear, however that the UK just doesn’t have the collective intelligence to look beyond the usual, raising retirement age, cutting costs etc etc

JĂŒrg Gassmann
JĂŒrg Gassmann
3 years ago

As I understand it, it has been known for a long time in epidemiology that if you have a disease with a strong age-dependent mortality (such as for CoViD 19), then efforts to slow down spread (such as lockdowns) do not reduce, but increase the risk to the more susceptible.
So even ignoring the intergenerational dynamics, the single-minded focus on lockdowns is putting our seniors at increased risk.

Trish Castle
Trish Castle
3 years ago

Yes. I was reading research on this just the other day. Clearly the “scientists” driving the political decision to go down and continue to go down the experimental “lockdown” route are either unaware of this or choose to overlook it. You may be interested in this https://drmalcolmkendrick.o

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
3 years ago
Reply to  Trish Castle

So what happened in New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Daegu, Vietnam ?

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
3 years ago

Wonder if the young who refer to Covid as ‘Boomer Remover’ will donate any cash or ‘valuable freehold properties’ we leave them to a suitable WOKE charity? No I thought not.

Gwynneth Coan
Gwynneth Coan
3 years ago

Don’t leave it to them, then.

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago

Bristow talks of ‘sleight of hand’ and then writes: ‘During the first wave, the scandal of discharging Covid-positive patients to care homes revealed how literally policy-makers had taken to heart the imperative to “protect the NHS” ” even if it resulted in the virus spreading among the most vulnerable.’ This policy was indeed a scandal and tragic mistake and people need to be held accountable. But spreading the virus among the most vulnerable wasn’t deliberate. That is a sleight of hand, unless the author believes that the virus was intentionally spread to care homes.

JP Martin
JP Martin
3 years ago

Generationalism is just another big word for resentment which, along with narcissism, seems to be the defining theme of our times. Sure enough, there is no mention of family, charity, community, or solidarity. With this mindset, we are doomed to be an atomised society of miserable individuals nurturing our own personal grievances.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

Lockdowns don’t protect anyone, but officials keep insisting on them. Well, except for a few mayors and governors who now want to reopen things for some reason I cannot quite put my finger on.

Andrew Hall
Andrew Hall
3 years ago

Age and population-adjusted mortality in 2020 was less than 2008 and prior years. That’s a real problem for SAGE and Westminster. Catastrophism is the new religion, courtesy of Silicon Valley and the digital society. Never mind pandemics, climate cults will appropriate any policy space vacated by last year’s craze. There’s no vaccine against climate change catastrophism yet.

TIM HUTCHENCE
TIM HUTCHENCE
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Hall

You use of stats is appreciated, but the 11 missing years (2009 – 2120) of UK death data don’t count with you – how come?
Here are the missing years (with population added for context);
2009 559,617 62,260,500 0.90%
2010 561,666 62,759,500 0.89%
2011 552,232 63,285,100 0.87%
2012 569,024 63,705,000 0.89%
2013 576,458 64,105,700 0.90%
2014 570,341 64,596,800 0.88%
2015 602,782 65,110,000 0.93%
2016 597,206 65,648,100 0.91%
2017 607,172 66,040,200 0.92%
2018 616,014 66,435,600 0.93%
2019 615,455 67,530,172 0.91%
2020 686,000 67,886,011 1.01%
Suggests c70,000 excess last year.

David Slade
David Slade
3 years ago

That was an interesting article and its quite true that generational division serves no constructive purpose – it is, therefore, quite distressing to realise it persists and is even encouraged in some instances at both ends of the generational divide (just read the BTL comments on the Daily Mail for an example of Boomer scapegoating of the young; ditto the Guardian for the reverse).

I have always thought the hectoring of the young to ‘not kill granny’ during the current pandemic was tasteless. Partly because it was made by people who were actively encouraging the isolation of the elderly and the disregard for their agency to make their own decisions and take their own risks for their quality of life decisions.

However, it was also because ‘Granny’s’ generation would have been utterly perplexed by this reaction to a pandemic, considering it to be more like something they would have read about in history books describing horror scenes from a pre-enlightened time. It had no precedent in the Spanish Flu of the silent generation or the Asian and Hong Kong flu of the baby boomers. The explanation that coronavirus’ are not influenza’s is epidemiology, interesting to note – but completely misses the point, we’re are still essentially talking bout reasonable trade-offs to make in the face of adversity and where our lines in the sand should be drawn.In that respect, the older generations may have had something useful to teach us before the targeted panic spreading did its job.

Hopefully we can all learn the correct lessons from this; once the shrill cries of who to blame and ‘shouldn’t we just have done more of what didn’t work when we did do it’ have died down.

I wont hold my breath though.

John Alexander
John Alexander
3 years ago

A very interesting article.

My tuppence worth is that there is unfortunately a trend of the younger generation is a desire to interfere in all aspects of people’s private lives.

It seems to have become part of the modern moralists of today.

There are two aspects.
One, there is an expectation of entitlement based on envy. Tey demand redistribution of all we have worked for.

This is most prominent in the SJW type that is on a crusade to demand everything belongs to them because they have come of age.

The second is that they believe everything is their business. And nothing makes them happier than telling people what to do. This is arrogance of the highest order.

These pseudo-moralistic types as described so well by Jordan Peterson, have the desire to take stances on large scale social issues in order to look good to their friends and neighbours

It is a delusion of self-importance and grandeur and they take the large-scale social issue as an opportunity to virtue signal

We are classified as elderly when we become of age to take retirement form working life because we most probably deserve it.

The notion that suddenly because of some so-called epidemic we have to be protected is arrogant and extremely annoying to many of These are both false assumptions.

We are not all “vulnerable” and it should not be assumed that some pipsqueak can now start making our lives miserable because they are overwhelmed with fear.

Most of us with the exception of a few are potentially vulnerable because of some other issue like dementia or frailty where we may not have full control of mental faculties or of all physical aspects of life.

For those who have no way of expressing their view or desires, by all means assist them.

I am going to be quite blunt, rude and maybe crude and tell these modern moralists to please piss-off and stop this incessant desire to interfere in our lives. The decent thing to do is to first ask us if we give a hoot about others fears.

We do not all want to be locked up and sentenced to house arrest and masked because some political idiot thinks this is for “the common good”. No, it is not.

If our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren wish to vist us let that be our choice and not some fool on a misson to make our last few years a misery.

We have the right to decide how we live our last years. We are not all terrified to die as most of us do not have any fear of death. We see this as quite natural.

So again, please ask us if we want to be put under house arrest and wear a damn mask. Let that be our choice not yours.

William Murphy
William Murphy
3 years ago
Reply to  John Alexander

I was joking to a lady at my church that, so far, we have survived the Asian flu of 1957, the Hong Kong flu of 1968 and the Sydney flu of 1999. But she had also survived the terrible Liverpool flu of 1951. The weekly death toll was worse than in the 1918 Spanish flu and was surpassed only by the WW2 bombing death toll, when Liverpool was the second most heavily bombed city in Britain. The Liverpool Echo printed a special supplement with the terrifying lists of dead.

The Liverpool epidemic fascinates epidemiologists to this day. It spread to Eastern Canada and New England. Eventually it just petered out of its own accord – no vaccines or fancy therapies.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago

I share the concerns of the author. I fear that the same spirit that writes off those over 70 as ‘weakest’, ‘frailest’ or ‘fattest’ will be used as justification to further punish the poorer elderly and the disabled (the supposedly economically unproductive) through the removal of universal benefits and support when the pandemic dies down to a manageable level. It is far more profitable for Capital and its political allies to foment resentment between generations than to challenge the underlying inequalities in society that have been exposed and are responsible for the unequal impact of the virus itself and of lockdown on the poorer in society. Standardising for age, deaths from Covid are twice as high among the most deprived populations in the UK compared to the least deprived.

J StJohn
J StJohn
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

That’s the definition of ‘deprived’. The only solution is absolute uniformity. Countries that tried this , did find that everyone died at the same age ; an age which fell relentlessly. Except, of course, for the elites. The alternative, where people take responsibility for themselves, results in constantly improving quality of life.

Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

I fear that the same spirit that writes off those over 70 as ‘weakest’, ‘frailest’ or ‘fattest’ will be used as justification to further punish the poorer elderly and the disabled (the supposedly economically unproductive) through the removal of universal benefits and support when the pandemic dies down to a manageable level.

I’d be very surprised if that happened. Who is going to “punish” the poorer elderly and the disabled?

John Alexander
John Alexander
3 years ago

Very interesting article. My tuppence worth is unfortunately there is an expectation that has permeated the younger generations. It is the expectation of entitlement. This is the same trait that can be observed in SJW causes, entitlement because of envy.

It is most annoying that for some reason the modern moralists who think everyones business is their too and everything is their business. And nothing makes them happier than telling people what to do.

We see this in demanding that the “elderly” are protected becasue they are vulnerable. This notion is a false assumption, the fact that we are classed as elderly once we reach retirment age does not mean we are all incapable of looking after ourselves or that we automatically need some form of care giver controlling us.

The ones that need the protection and possible isolation are those who are suffering form some form of early dementia and those who are unable to look after their basic bodily functions and need frail care.

Otherwise in crude wording “Pee off” and let us make our own descions if we feel the need to be isolated from risks. We have lived for longer than most of the pipsqueaks making demands on our behalf and we are not scared of risks becasue they are part of life. That is why we have lived for so long.

We know and accept we will die and are not all afraid of death. It is quite natural.

So, please stop this incessant desire to interfere in our lives and ask us before making descisons please.

Tom Fox
Tom Fox
3 years ago

The narrative that the post war generation all had it good is entirely specious, just as the one which says that the young are held down. I was born in 1951, and knew what it was like to live as a child in a household where money was very tight. The idea that modern children were as poor a we were is utterly wrong. While I made my way in a professional career, people I went to school with had a much harder time, many finding themselves in long term poverty as the industrial restructuring of the north bit hard in the 1980s. Are the sixty and seventy something miners, shipyard workers and engineering workers of the north a part of the blessed boomer troughing generation? Anyone would think that all of Britain was the stock broker belt of Surrey. What is more, the young are NOT bound to fail or sold out and held down by us. They differ vastly in their prospects as did the old. My three sons varying in age between 35 and 40 are all more affluent than I was, or at least equally affluent, and one owns a million pound house, almost mortgage free at aged 36. He went to the local comprehensive and has never had anything form me. In fact he loaned me £40,000 as a bridging loan three years ago then aged 33 while I waited for the delayed sale of a property to go through after buying a house.

I blame that rat Willets for a lot of the flack older people are getting. He has time and time again been in the media advancing the idea that the boomers had it too good and don’t deserve teh capital gains they have made. Of course, as in all discussion of capital gains, no one mentions the massive inflation that has occurred between say 1975 and the present. That alone amounts to 807%.

William Murphy
William Murphy
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Fox

My starting pay as an Executive Officer in the Civil Service in 1975 was £2,500 per annum. A tiny studio flat in Reading in 1976 cost £6,250. The “multiplier of income” you needed for a mortgage was not as bad as today, but interest rates were higher. And inflation was insane – up to 26% a year. Not quite a case paying for a loaf with a wheelbarrow of cash. But enough to shuffle wealth from the unlucky to the lucky (or cunning).

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago

I think Labour started work on this intergenerational war idea after they lost the Class War in the 1980s, 90s and 00s, it’s the biggest one of a few *conflicts* race, Gender, etc they have cast about with to try and replace the class war narrative.

It’s a nonsense of course. Most societies just honour their older people and recognise the right of the younger to forge their own way, that deal has worked well for years.

I have seen the two ideas in one paragraph on this topic. A Labour person saying casually unemployment post Pandemic crisis could be approaching the levels not seen since the late 1970s and early 80s…… and that the Baby Boom generation never had to face this.

Despite the 70s and 80s having that unemployment to contend with.

It’s obvious that the generation born 1895 to 1905 or so had it far worse than the 1995 to 2005 one…even their pandemic was worse, not to mention Diptheria, Whooping cough etc and their two world wars and one Great Depression…even rationing…and all with no internet.

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago

Fox talks of ‘sleight of hand’ and then writes: “During the first wave, the scandal of discharging Covid-positive patients to care homes revealed how literally policy-makers had taken to heart the imperative to “protect the NHS” ” even if it resulted in the virus spreading among the most vulnerable.” This policy was indeed a scandal and tragic cok up and people need to be held accountable. But spreading the virus among the most vulnerable wasn’t deliberate. That is a sleight of hand, unless the author believes that the virus was intentionally spread to care homes.

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago

Fox talks of ‘sleight of hand’ and then writes: “During the first wave, the scandal of discharging Covid-positive patients to care homes revealed how literally policy-makers had taken to heart the imperative to “protect the NHS” ” even if it resulted in the virus spreading among the most vulnerable.” This policy was indeed a scandal and tragic cok up and people need to be held accountable. But spreading the virus among the most vulnerable wasn’t deliberate. That is a sleight of hand, unless the author believes that the virus was intentionally spread to care homes.

Elmer Fudd
Elmer Fudd
3 years ago

Paying for your own elderly care..when you have benefited from 10x housing price increase…what a disgrace!

Robert Malcolm
Robert Malcolm
3 years ago

This is only one aspect of the social divide: but relative poverty is much more pertinent. Born in 1953, I’m an affluent early retired homeowner, in a nice area, with a nice family and a decent income, and my situation in lockdown is radically different from many people of my age living alone in poor quality social housing and struggling with obesity, poverty and poor health.