by Henry Hill
Monday, 23
May 2022
Spotted
07:15

Why do we keep giving boomers handouts?

Now supermarkets are joining the government in propping up the over-60s
by Henry Hill
It’s their country baby, you’re just living in it. Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty

If like me you spend too much time on certain parts of Twitter, you too may have imagined that the following news story is a spoof: Iceland has stepped up to the plate on the cost-of-living crisis by offering a discount to… old people.

According to the BBC, the supermarket chain is going to offer customers over-60 a discount of 10% every Tuesday. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see private companies doing more to help out people who will struggle as the cost of essentials rises. But why, oh why, have they picked older citizens?

It may be that pensioners appear on paper to have a tougher deal than those in employment. But in terms of people’s actual budgets, the coming months are going to hit young workers much harder. Most obviously, they are already pouring vast chunks of their monthly income away in rent. The average over-60, by contrast, is a homeowner — and one who has paid down much of their mortgage at that.

Nor are their incomes all they appear. Though the notorious ‘triple lock’ has been suspended for the coming year, pensions will still rise by 2.5% or inflation — a fact which will be extremely telling as the latter starts to erode the value of young people’s salaries and savings. (The government has also committed to restoring the triple lock next year.)

Then there’s taxes. Most over-60s will be over the state pension age, and thus paying no national insurance. All, if they received a university education, will have received it for free, and none will be paying the usurious effective tax rate of those young workers who paid through the nose for ‘Plan 2’ tuition fees. And that’s before we get to the ‘social care levy’, Rishi Sunak’s extra tax on working-age people to prevent older citizens having to sell their expensive houses.

Worst of all, many of the people whom the cost-of-living crisis will hit the hardest are those who spent the past two years making the biggest sacrifices for the common good during the pandemic, despite being at minimal personal risk of life-threatening complications from Covid-19.

Now Iceland is a private business, and is perfectly entitled to offer discounts to whomever it likes. But if the Government wants to make an effort to show that it’s on the side of young people — and admittedly that’s a big ‘if’ — it could do a lot worse than vocally encouraging companies from offering them targeted support, and even rewarding them for doing so.

Yes, this would doubtless aggravate a section of the population who seemingly cannot fathom that there are limits to the support older citizens require or deserve — the sort of people who were outraged when the Government temporarily suspended the triple lock rather than give pensioners a huge windfall just because the pandemic had flattened the economy.

It might also aggravate those Tory peers who think a cost-of-living crisis is the ideal time to push up food prices on public health grounds. But ministers need to show a little leadership. It shouldn’t be hard, especially if it’s the supermarkets, rather than the Treasury, picking up the bill.

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AC Harper
AC Harper
1 month ago

I find articles that demonise a particular demographic divisive and frankly superficial.
Writers are quick to seize an opportunity to castigate ‘that group over there’, yet when you get down to the detail some of ‘that group’ are privileged and others struggling. One size does not fit all.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 month ago
Reply to  AC Harper

This guy in particular. Seems to be the only arrow in his quiver.

Mike Wylde
Mike Wylde
1 month ago

“We” are not giving anyone anything in this case. Iceland have decided that if they give the over 60s a discount on a Tuesday then the extra footfall and spend on a Tuesday (presumably a slack day) will lead to higher turnover and hence profits.

I can only advise that you give up Twitter. It will do your mental health a world of good.

Matt M
Matt M
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike Wylde

Excellent point Mike. Iceland are dressing up a sales drive as a piece of altruism and the Twitter idiots lap it up.

Matt M
Matt M
1 month ago

Surely the problem is that retired people live on fixed incomes while young people can increase their income by working more hours or getting a better job.
Young people today have an easier life than any generation before them. You can tell that by the time they have available to go online to moan about their lot.

Last edited 1 month ago by Matt M
Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 month ago

I am not sure about the swings taken at the older generation in this article. But, as a 40-ish person who missed the boat with affordable housing, I do feel like I am being continuously shafted at the moment. It is occasionally hard not to feel bitter.

Steve Whipp
Steve Whipp
1 month ago

I’m middle-aged. (Gen X). The obvious and some would say cynical reason deference is given to the older generations by consecutive Conservative governments, isn’t due to any respect of the demographic “paying into” the system for all those years, but because they vote and vote quite consistently Conservative.
Now that may change, indeed, the last few if the last few by-elections are anything to go by, even the protections given to pensioners may not be enough to hide this government’s rampant corruption and incompetence.
I, for one, detest the fact that our government has been able to turn one generation against another so easily and hide their real constituents, the ultra-wealthy and large corporations.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Whipp

I’m with you on this. I will vote for the first party or politician that stops dividing people into endless lists of intersectional groups.

Matt M
Matt M
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Whipp

This is a crazy statement. Pensioners voted for Tony Blair en masse. The reason they voted for Cameron, May and Boris is because Brown, Miliband and Corbyn were so useless. No party is going to promote lower house prices or pensions. This battle of the generations thing is just another thing made up by Twitter types to spice up their commentary.

Julian Pellatt
Julian Pellatt
1 month ago

Right = Bad, Left = Good
Brexit = Bad, Remain = Good
White = Bad, Black = Good
Nationalism = Bad, Globalism = Good
Hitler = Bad, Stalin = Good
Rural = Bad, Urban = Good
Fossil (fuel) = Bad, Wind (power) = Good
Men = Bad, Women = Good
Oppressors = Bad, Oppressed = Good
The woking-class is predicated on the basis of such bigoted stereotypes and Marxist perspectives. People who arrogantly consider themselves to be ‘progressive’ are no less bigoted than the targets of their ‘intellectually superior’, righteous hatreds.
Mr Hill apparently dislikes like old people.
OLD = Bad, YOUNG = Good! Here we go again! [yawn]
Old folks in the UK in their retired, twilight years face increasing ill-health in the public health (the NHS that is politically sacrosanct) and social care systems that are broken; especially if they have the misfortune to live outside of greater London. Most retirees can ill afford (or not at all) the cost of private health care and therefore have to wait for months/years for medical consultations, let alone actual treatments (five years for a knee operation in the Welsh NHS, for example); or are forced to sell their relatively modest (if they indeed own them) homes to pay for residential care. After decades of paying multiple taxes and ‘national insurance’ (what a misnomer!), most old people are dumped, marginalised or ignored by the younger elites who control politics, public services, the media, commerce and every other aspect of our governance and lives.
Of course, the rich, like Mr Sunak, don’t deign to shop at common supermarkets where people like my late father in law hobbled around the isles of Iceland with his zimmer-frame, looking for the cheap deals as he had so little money to spare from his meagre income. No doubt the wealthy amongst us receive home deliveries from the likes of Harrods, ordered by their full-time housekeepers on account. Hurrah for them!
Good for Iceland for offering old age discounts to the over-60s. I hope they make a handsome profit and capture market share from their competitors.
In African societies old people are generally venerated for their wisdom accumulated through lifetimes, and respected by younger generations who care for and support their elders The arrogant disrespect and disregard of the younger generations for older people generally manifest in our progressive ‘democracies’ is shameful and mean-spirited.
The ageism in our society is a disgrace. Mr Hill and his ilk have it all coming to them in due course!

R Wright
R Wright
1 month ago

Based on these comments, i must be in the minority by not being one of the elderly that strives to hoard advantages to the detriment of the country’s youth. By not giving an inch now you can bet some radical in a decade’s time will bring in land taxes, compulsory purchasing and slashing pensions. Oli imagine given Unherd’s age bracket few will want to hear such things.

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
1 month ago
Reply to  R Wright

Maybe we are just striving to hang onto a modest sufficiency rather than hoarding our doubloons and snarling at the youth? This ‘generational equity’ argument has been invented by the unscrupulous saddos of the media to distract the populace from the real scandal of wealth inequality, which straddles all age boundaries. Nobody is writing snarky comments about zillionaire teenage footballers, or young Mark Zuckerberg, are they? Hang on tho…

Bob Forkoac
Bob Forkoac
1 month ago

Andrew McDonald figured it out! Bravo! Occupy Wall Street was quickly forgotten and replaced by BLM and Boomers.

Bob Forkoac
Bob Forkoac
1 month ago

Why are you attacking ppl for nothing? When you’re older you’ll get the same discount. Furthermore, many Boomers have no pensions. I feel that you’re misdirecting your animosity.

J. Brelner
J. Brelner
1 month ago

It all depends on perspective. If the writer was 60, he’d probably be complaining about a paltry 10% discount. Women care about women’s issues, military personnel care about military pay and benefits. It’s human nature — making the article irrelevant.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
1 month ago

Q: “Why do we keep giving boomers handouts?”
A: Because we’re worth it! At least in the opinion of this ‘boomer’ or Neanderthal* as I prefer to say.

(* Thank you Ian Stewart.)

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
1 month ago

I have a lot of sympathy with this view, maybe I’m ill informed and then you will correct me.
It seems that the poorest pensioners live on the state pension alone which, while far from generous, at least rises by the rate of inflation. Their rents are paid by benefits.
Not too many in work see their incomes rise with inflation (hence, threatened strikes).
Admittedly, the poorest of working age receive state support too.
Richer pensioners have, in addition to their basic state pension, a private or occupational pension which may be index linked. The chances are that they live in a home for which they have already repaid their mortgage. They pay tax only on any income above the thresholds; unlike those of working age who pay tax and national insurance on income above the threshold.
Unlike those of working age, they probably do not have children to support.
In London, at least, they get generous transport discounts. Those of working age have to pay significant amounts to get to work.
I’d like to understand what I have go wrong and, by the way, I’m not far off 60 myself.

Last edited 1 month ago by Jonathan Andrews
Iris C
Iris C
1 month ago

I agree with what is written here.
Government decisions seem to be taken on the basis that all pensioners live on their state pension and rent their house/flat but I wonder how many actually fall into that category nowadays. Many of those with modest incomes took advantage of the very generous incentive to buy their council house back in the eighties and the ever-increasing number of white collar state employees and NALGOs have generous employment pension.. Retired bankers and those who have been employed by other large employers will also have good pensions and be comfortably off..
Of course there will be those who have no income beyond the state pension and they should be helped but it must be galling for the young to see money being directed towards those who don’t need it when they are struggling.

Barb Skool
Barb Skool
1 month ago
Reply to  Iris C

How was this downvoted?! It doesn’t attack or offend? Oh I know, you forgot to start and end it with, “boomers have sacrificed so much….” 😉

Chris W
Chris W
1 month ago

I am old. I agree totally with the comments in the article. Old people also:

. Tend to be want to live in warmer houses because they have become accustomed to cheap energy. Their houses also tend to be bigger, whereas young people can and do live in one room.

. Tend to be more wasteful in their habits because they grew up in a wasteful society.

. Tend to pay for more television while young people are happy with the (free) internet.

. Tend to drive everywhere because they have grown lazy.

. Almost always have a dog or dogs and these animals cost a lot of money.

Perhaps the biggest issue of all is that old people dominate the resources of the NHS. Clearly, the NHS can’t cope and things will get worse in the future. Is the aim of keeping people alive longer a meaningful and realistic aim?

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris W

And for the other side (I’m old too) – a lot of old people:
– grew up in cold houses with no central heating, and have kept a lot of frugal habits;
– live in small houses to which they have prudently downsized (wearily paying a monstrous stamp duty penalty for their prudence);
– gave up their television habits when the television became unwatchable a couple of decades ago;
– walk and cycle a lot, after years of incessant public health messaging, and walk their dogs without any assistance from the state;
– and so on… incidentally the NHS cost curve is U-shaped, with the youth responsible for the massive costs of their infant offspring; and the biggest expense of all (per capita) is on the last six months of life, which is to say, not on old people so much as on dying people. And as an old person yourself you’ll remember that paying off the mortgage on our luxurious gaffs used to involve interest rates of 10 or even 15%, not the apparently horrifying-to-the-young 3% they pay now.

Barb Skool
Barb Skool
1 month ago

“walk and cycle a lot, after years of incessant public health messaging, and walk their dogs without any assistance from the state;”

Haha. Yes, that totally explains the walkability and rideability of our cities and towns that took off in the 80s. NOT.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
1 month ago

The youth keep the old alive.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
1 month ago

“And as an old person yourself you’ll remember that paying off the mortgage on our luxurious gaffs used to involve interest rates of 10 or even 15%, not the apparently horrifying-to-the-young 3% they pay now.”
Swings and roundabouts, the price/income ratio is higher than ever, they young are far from getting an easy ride

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris W

I’m old too, still working and still paying tax. Although I’m old enough to be exempted from National Insurance which I’ve only been paying for 45 years. My total stay in an NHS hospital in that time was one night with a broken leg. And one night in a private hospital for an elective neck operation to avoid being dependent on the NHS.
I have no defined benefit pension so am saving to build up my retirement fund. I do not want to be a burden on the state or my children.
I could have retired early 2020 but preferred to keep working while I was able and then when it became likely that massive inflation would result from government incontinence at COVID, am waiting to see if my retirement fund will even buy what comfort I had hoped for in retirement.
Like other responders, I have relatively frugal habits and paid high interest rates – 16.5% in my case, through spells of unemployment and low-wage recovery. . My childhood home had one toilet, an outside toilet. As adults, we never had a house with more than one bathroom whereas my kids’ generation had to have two bathrooms in their first 2br flat.
True, I do not need free prescriptions, free bus pass etc.
My house has not appreciated, in fact it’s gone down in price , so downsizing would actually lose me money.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris W

Old people tend to want to live in warmer houses because 1) they feel the cold more and 2) they spend more time at home.

Barb Skool
Barb Skool
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris W

Yes! Most boomers (not all) love to take, while falsely believing that they have worked super hard and sacrificed so much. We all think we contribute more than we actually do. However, I think what upsets younger generations is that boomers don’t think of the future once they are gone. On top of that, the constantly speak I’ll of younger people…… And I think after the past 2 years, younger people have had enough.

Boomers should start being nice, in a few years you are going to depend on the younger generations that you screwed over.

Last edited 1 month ago by Barb Skool
E. L. Herndon
E. L. Herndon
1 month ago
Reply to  Barb Skool

After school, copy these words, 100 times: “As you are now, I once was; as I am now, so you shall be.”

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
1 month ago
Reply to  E. L. Herndon

Memento mori .