Not everything was rosy for the baby boomer generation

Downsizing can be a daunting prospect
Downsizing can be a daunting prospect

Bashing baby boomers is something of a hobby for certain categories of people.

Some politicians come to mind and other know-it-all youngsters who’ve listened to those politicians and worked out they’ve got a raw deal since they cannot get on the housing ladder and have no idea how they’ll pay back their student loan, the very same people who regard dining out regularly and summer holidays as absolutely essential to their wellbeing.

Sandra Chapman

Sandra Chapman

Baby boomers are defined as those born between the end of the Second World War and the Sixties. We were the generation who worked hard, helped grow the economy, gaining independence from the previous generation which, having lived through two world wars, couldn’t provide us with the kind of lifestyle we hoped to achieve. Even those standards were nothing like what the young of today aspire to but appear not so keen to graft for, instead blaming us for depriving them of the opportunities they think we had.

An important study into the baby boomer generation reveals that not only has BBs become a ‘‘term of abuse’’ it threatens to ‘‘spread resentment between generations.’’ The Ready for Ageing Alliance which involves charities and think tanks and which compiled the report does not accept the idea that there is ‘‘a lucky generation’’ which has ‘‘profited from rising property values, free university education and final-salary schemes.’’

Its research suggests that BBs are still living with the effects of past high interest rates (in the 1970s mortgages carried 15 per cent interest rates) and ‘‘wide inequalities in health and pension provision.’’

Now they face the biggest burden of care of any generation, not only looking after their elderly parents but not being given the time to save for their own care which these days is costing anything up to £40,000 a year.

Those homes they paid such high rated mortgages for are now being eyed up by social services as a way of paying those huge care bills.

The report accepts that while BBs are experiencing improvement in life expectancy this can vary in different areas by up to 20 years. Also, BBs are less likely to have university degrees despite free university education during those years (less than one in five people aged 55 to 64 have a degree) and, says the report, 28 per cent of those in the same bracket have no private pension.

Another recent criticism from an official source about baby boomers is that we are reluctant to downsize our homes. The suggestion is that by doing so we could provide more family-sized housing for the younger generation.

Many of us, I suggest, would be quite happy to downsize but where are the smaller homes we could move to which have the particular criteria needed to make old age convenient and comfortable? Northern Ireland in particular has very few of what could be described as retirement villages, an American style concept where the elderly can also have healthcare suited to their needs.

Downsizing is daunting for the elderly and it’s incredibly expensive when one factors in stamp duty, agents’ and removal fees. A suggestion recently that stamp duty for the elderly trying to downsize be dispensed with has been shot down by the government which appears not to see the wider picture.

A study by the think tank the International Longevity Centre (ILC UK) suggests that pensioners living in retirement communities ``are significantly less likely to feel lonely than those still in their own homes.’’

Traditional care homes are simply not good enough for those of us with all our marbles and, hopefully, a significant number of years left to enjoy life. Retirement villages, says this report gives the elderly more control over their lives than those living in the wider community.

Maybe our new super councils can take this on board now that they have planning powers.