As if the physical act of ageing wasn't miserable enough—"this getting older, it ain't for cowards," in the words of John Mellencamp—apparently pensioners are also stealing scarce resources from young households. According to an article in today's Financial Times, UK pensioners have seen the largest rise in living standards of any societal group, even as working-age households struggle to stay afloat.
The article, titled "Bigger bill ahead for care of elderly," references three recent independent reports that ultimately come to the same conclusion: pressure is increasing on working-age household incomes to "support the incomes and care of the elderly at a time when pensioner incomes have been rising much faster than younger families' wages." Local councils have warned that providing care for rising numbers of infirm elderly residents could result in cuts amounting to 90% on services such as roads and parks. Parks or people—is that the choice?
This is not the medtech industry's battle, of course. In fact, medical innovation provides an ageing population with a level of quality of life that was barely imaginable just a few years ago, and it has a positive impact on the economy, as people well into their golden years continue to lead productive and healthy lives.
In an open letter to the European Council, Eucomed and the European Diagnostic Manufacturers Association (EDMA) stressed that long-term negative effects on healthcare budgets far outweigh the short-term financial gains stemming from random cost cutting. "Look at healthy citizens as a benefit, rather than a cost, who bring added value and can help in achieving growth," argue the pan-European associations.
Perhaps the UK is failing its young, as Laurence Kotlikoff told the FT. Kotlikoff is professor of economics at Boston MIT and the creator of intergenerational accounting, which gave birth to the fairness index, at the World Bank. Should the UK fail pensioners, as well, to achieve some sort of balance on the fairness index? Only if you think the economy is a zero sum game.