Are old people an unfair burden on society?

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George Victor

People of a like age enjoy (or not) similar social benefits and opportunities (or not) in a welfare state that is running out of resources. This emerging condition of scarcity makes age relationships meaningful.  But it is also a controversy skewed by the bean counters among a consuming society of taxpayers for comparing life chances across age groups when comparison with "the Jones's" goes stale. 

Those who understand that the generations of Homo sapiens to follow will be materially shortchanged because of their late arrival are the realists. The species has for some time foreshortened its concerns like old "in-the-long-run-we-are-dead" Keynes.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Don't know where else to put this. Why don't we have a forum on "aging" or "baby boomers" - or both?

Anonymous tip line to ‘rat out’ unfit elderly motorists unfairly targets seniors, critic says

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

I'll be 65 next year, but already I'm afflicted with "old people" health problems - especially osteoarthritis. I went to work at an early age, but then returned to college and university later in life. I paid my damned taxes. Anyone who thinks I'm a burden can go and [email protected]#$!!! themselves.


Ahhh, that felt good. Laughing


Well said.

Unionist wrote:

I believe that society is an unfair burden on old people. Can you refer me to the appropriate thread, please?

Arthur Cramer Arthur Cramer's picture

And what stops someone wishing to sette a score calling in? This is so dammed stupid. How many times do we have to show why these kind of "Tip" lines are a bad idea? Talk about Big Brother. Cripes.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Yeah - I've been reading some of the comments following the article. They make precisely your point, Arthur.

Sean in Ottawa

A lot of people overreach their driving abilities: driving to fast, driving inappropriately for the weather, driving on highways they cannot keep up, driving while too tired, or driving while distractred doing too many things, or driving under the influence. To single out seniors seems inappropriate when we don't have tip lines for anyone else. We do assume that people will watch out for each other and report those who cannot drive or are driving badly for whatever reason.

Seniors whose abilities are limited quite often can drive within those limitations-- avoiding highways, avoiding late-night driving, lower tolerance for tiredness etc. I know some who manage those limitations quite well. Those who want to speed over the limit and get upset at seniors who might be actually following the rules of the road should consider allowing a bit more time to get to their destination while hoping that when they get to the same age there will be some respect around for them.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Good post, Sean. I'm almost a senior (actually, here on the coast of Quebec, we are invited to join the Golden Age clubs at age 55 and over) and I recognise my limitations - for example, I don't drive after dark, unless I'm on a rural road with no traffic.


By the way, I don't think anyone calls self a "Zoomer". That was an invented advertising term, with no more authenticity than real-estate speak has.

Sure, Boomers are either late-middle-aged or officially "old". Problem is all the negative stereotypes associated with age - a great overestimation of percentage of elderly people institutionalized or dementia sufferers, marginalization, being thought sexless, useless and incompetent - all that crap.

Boom Boom, I know someone who has suffered from various types of arthritis since his teens. Only problem is, since nobody dies of that (though one can die of certain complications of severe forms), the cohort with it increases with age, and some types are an expression of wear and tear on the joints (arthrotis, often).

As Moriaraty said above, I feel no need to define myself thus, and certainly not as the "crone" stereotype/archetype from the more mystical/essentialist brands of feminism.

I don't think older people are an unfair burden. But many capable old people who WANT to work are looked over for jobs. And I think we have the right to check out if we are suffering unbearable pain or indignity, if we so desire.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Excellent, lagatta. Good post!


Catchfire wrote:

Hi alien, your thread title, while perhaps satirical, is offensive. Since thread titles are uneditable, what would you like me to change it to?

ETA. And I see that the Canadian Medical Association is at it again. I guess the only solution is to move to a private, for-profit model!

To be fair, the best-performing healthcare models have overwhelmingly been the European ones, which are two-tier systems for the most part. I find that unlike in Canada (which tends to be far more ideological in its approach to social services), Europeans tend to take a far less ideological and far more pragmatic approach to issues, not to mention they place more importance on consensus buiding too. For instance, the Swedish model, which is by far more socialist than the Canadian one, also has two-tiered healthcare and a nation-wide school voucher programme, as do some other European countries.

Let's not forget that the Europeans have far more experience with socialism than Canada does, and so their system has matured with experience. In realistic practical terms, we cannot expect the Canadian NDP stand to the left of its European counterparts when Canadians tend to be more conservative than their European counterparts on the whole. Part of the reason the European socialists have been more successful is precisely because of European pragmatism.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

I'm reminded of this article from 2007: (warning: long .pdf file)

A Closer Look at Aging, Technology and Other Cost Drivers in Canada’s Health Care System


A popular myth is that an aging population will render the public health care system unsustainable. This paper contributes to a public dialogue on health care sustainability by providing a better understanding of cost pressures in public health care and what they mean for the future in terms of sustainability.

This paper finds that population aging, in and of itself, is but a small contributor to rising cost pressures in the health care system.

Based on current projections there is little to suggest a demographic time-bomb about to go off.

Instead, the real challenge for financing the health care system is advances in technological possibilities, broadly defined to include pharmaceutical drugs, new surgical techniques, new diagnostic and imaging technologies, and end-of-life care. These challenges can be addressed most efficiently and equitably in the context of a public system.

This paper finds that:

Population aging has been a cost driver, but a very small one compared to other sources. The impact of population aging was 0.8% per year over the past decade.

(...the summary continues for another page or so)


I have mixed feelings on the drivers license idea. I think that the sensitive issue of a seniors deteriorating skills should be dealt with by the family but sometimes the family has to ask for help. I watched by parents and aunts and uncles go through old age over the last 20 years and a couple of them were very, very scary drivers at the end. For my relatives that occurred in their eighties not in their sixties.  It didn't matter who told them their driving was bad they would not give up the freedom that goes with a vehicle. We had to get a second cousin who was a cop to visit my Dad while in uniform to get him to stop driving.

I hope I have the good sense to give up driving as my skills deteriorate. I would not be opposed to having mandatory skills assessments every 5 years from 65 to 80 and maybe every two years after that.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

From my 2007 link:

Some highly misleading statistics on public health care come from an annual report by the Fraser Institute, who have long argued for privatization of public health care. The 2006 report,

Paying More, Getting Less: Measuring the Sustainability of Public Health Insurance in Canada

concludes, to no one’s surprise, that public health care is unsustainable.

In the accompanying press release it is claimed that “Provincial government spending on health care will consume more than half of total revenue from all sources by the year 2020 and all revenue by 2050 in six out of 10 provinces if current trends continue.”

This scary picture is mistaken for a number of reasons. Health care spending has had its ebbs and flows over the past two decades. Beginning in the early 1990s, funding was slowed, then cut back in the mid-1990s, all part of the “war on the deficit” zealously advocated by the Fraser Institute, among others. By the late 1990s, when federal surpluses became impossible to hide, a series of “new deals” to save public health were negotiated between the federal and provincial governments.

The Fraser Institute projects forward this period when health care spending was recovering, and neglects the years prior to it when restraint was the order of the day. The other part of the equation is that education, social services, and other policy areas have not had sufficient funding increases. Education funding has been held to very small annual increases, while social services and other areas of the budget have seen devastating cuts in many provinces. Ultimately, the Fraser Institute is measuring the wrong thing — what matters is the share of our total income (or GDP) we spend on health care, not the share of the provincial budget.

This disingenuous tactic has unfortunately been remarkably successful. The BC government, who have been keen to press for private health care options wherever possible, adopted the Fraser Institute’s framing of sustainability in launching a public Conversation on Health in September 2006. Their statistics went way beyond the Fraser Institute approach and were tortured to reach a confession that by 2017 health care will consume over 70% of the provincial budget. If we are truly concerned about health care spending rising as a share of provincial budgets, a simpler option would be to enhance funding for the non-health care areas of those budgets.

Given large federal and provincial surpluses (this is 2007!), it is imperative that funding be increased to fight poverty, build affordable housing, address urban infrastructure issues, and strengthen the education system. These expenditures would lead to stabilizing, or even reduction, of the share of funding going to health care.


And obviously, the first thing to do is make it far less necessary for anyone, at least in an urban/metropolitan area, to have to drive in the first place.

I was going to write that I have never indulged in that particular vice (many others, yes), but unfortunately a lot of people do have to drive, and not only in remote communities.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

kropotkin1951 wrote:


I hope I have the good sense to give up driving as my skills deteriorate. I would not be opposed to having mandatory skills assessments every 5 years from 65 to 80 and maybe every two years after that.

Everyone I know in my age range agrees with this, although the age for testing is usually 70 and upwards. 65 is the new 40. Smile


As you might guess I am 62 and there is no way that I feel as good as I did when I was 40.  Some of my ancestors lived into their nineties in the 17th century. It is all about what deteriorates on the body.  With me its been my knees but I am hopeful that with the second FKR done and healing well I will now have another long period of being more or less temporarily able bodied after a number years of disability.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

I'm a year older than you! I get to call you a young whipper-snapper. Tongue out


After a certain point in life, you do become a "dependent". In a sense you become someone's burden. But is it unfair to those around you?

To me, fairness has less to do with the needs of the elderly, and more to do with what kind of world these elderly folks want to leave for the rest of us. Considering the number of older voters who want to cut social security (only for the next generation), do nothing about climate change, and complain that the most educated and underemployed generation in history is somehow to blame for the lack of jobs... yeah, THOSE old people an unfair burden on society. But so are a lot of the 1% who expect tax credits and subsidies, and turn around and demonize welfare recipients.

Ken Burch

I've always liked these lyrics by Utah Phillips(especially as I get closer to the time in life when they might apply to me)  They seem as good an answer to the thread question as any:


1) I spent my whole life making somebody rich

I busted my ass for that son of a bitch

He left me to die like a dog in a ditch

And told me I'm all used up

He used up my labor, he used up my time

He plundered my body and squandered my mind

Then he gave me a pension, some handouts and wine

And told me I'm all used up


2) My kids are in hock to a god you call Work

Slaving their lives out for some other jerk

And my youngest in 'Frisco just made shipping-clerk

He don't know I'm all used up

Some young people reach out for power and gold

And they don't have respect for anything old

For pennies they're bought, for promises sold

Someday they'll be used up


3) They use up the oil, they use up the trees

They use up the air and they use up the seas

But how about you, friend, and how about me

What's left, when we're all used up?

I'll finish my life in this crummy hotel

It's lousy with bugs and my God, what a smell

But my plumbing still works and I'm clear as a bell

Don't tell me I'm all used up.


4)Outside my window the world passes by

It gives me a handout, then spits in my eye

And no one can tell me, 'cause no one knows why

I'm still living, but I'm all used up

Sometimes in a dream I sit by a tree

My life is a book of how things used to be

And the kids gather 'round and they listen to me

They don't think I'm all used up

And there's songs and there's laughter and things I can do

And all that I've learned I can give back to you

And I'd give my last breath just to make it come true

And to know I'm not all used up

(this last couplet is sung to the second part of the melody)

They use up the oil, they use up the trees

They use up the air and they use up the seas

But as long as I'm breathing they won't use up me

Don't tell me I'm all used up.


Unionist wrote:

I believe that society is an unfair burden on old people. Can you refer me to the appropriate thread, please?


No need to worry folks, the pharmaceutical industry will never permit what passes for health care in our society to fail, it is far too profitable for them.





I'd never heard "All Used Up". Great song. Did Utah Phillips write it?

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

I've never heard of Utah Phillips until now.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture


UTAH PHILLIPS : All Used Up. Vancouver Folk Music Festival 2007.

Ken Burch

lagatta wrote:

I'd never heard "All Used Up". Great song. Did Utah Phillips write it?

Yeah, he did...probably sometime in the Seventies.  It may be his best-known song, other than "Daddy What's A Train" or "Larimer Street".

Got to meet him briefly a couple of times-once in Juneau in the Eighties(he stayed at the Governor's mansion, of all places-the governor we had at the time had liked his music) and again at the Vancouver Folk Festival shortly before his death(I was at the performance epaulo posted and that talk about the homeless camps being driven out was burned into my memory).  He was a good person to listen to-and easy to approach.


epaulo13 wrote:


UTAH PHILLIPS : All Used Up. Vancouver Folk Music Festival 2007.


Thanks, that was great.

Sven Sven's picture

This may be the single worst thread title in babble's long history...

Ken Burch

Could I beat it if I started a thread titled "Should Irish Infants Be Served As Entrees(A Swift Idea)?

Sven Sven's picture

Ken Burch wrote:

Could I beat it if I started a thread titled "Should Irish Infants Be Served As Entrees(A Swift Idea)?

That was a funny "essay" of Swift's ("A Modest Proposal," no?)...

Ken Burch


And, in a way, the title to this thread was in the same spirit...the thread was started by a "person of years" who wanted to startle people about the implications of some current social ideas(as Swift wanted to startle the Anglo-Irish and English political elite about the implications of some of their harsh talk about the Irish poor(and the poor in general)being an undue burden.


Utah Phillips fought against  the copyrighting of traditional songs.  People like Roy Rogers during the start of the recoding industry recorded traditional folk and country music as their own.  He believed that a folk song was anyone's to use and sing in any manner and with any lyrics they wanted to.  He was also a IWW member and activist.  I've sung this song many a time with my friends.


Utah Phillips wrote:

“The state can't give you freedom, and the state can't take it away. You're
born with it, like your eyes, like your ears. Freedom is something you
assume, then you wait for someone to try to take it away. The degree to
which you resist is the degree to which you are free...”


In terms of representing an unfair burden politically, there seems to be a common perception, supported by election statistics, that older voters tend to lean right. On the other hand, the middle aged, middle class occupies the center where all possibilities are up for debate, with the implication that anything goes, and then there's generation Y and the millennials who seem to prefer the NDP.  For non-voters, it follows that voting itself represents society's burden thrust down upon the rest of us.  In that sense, the question around burdens, and the portioning out of blame based on age is rendered irrelevant.


Italy’s Struggling Economy Has World’s Healthiest People


Mediterranean diet, and despite poor organisation, a lot of health care professionals. I do think there has been an increase in mortality in Greece though, despite the even purer Med diet (people in Northern Italy do eat more red meat and butter than those in Central and Southern Italy) because of the drastic impacts of the crisis there. When living in Italy, I also noticed that elderly people seemed to be held in higher esteem than in other Western countries I was familiar with.