Analysis: When did we lose respect for the elderly?

A report says patronising language towards older people should be banned. Photo: Reuters

This report calls for a major cultural shift in the way we treat our elderly.

The buzz words are "compassion" and "dignity".

No-one who has watched their elderly relatives being patronised or overlooked could disagree with a word of it.

But there I go again, separating the "elderly" from the rest of us as if they exist only as our dependents, and as a distinctly separate group.

They are not. Look in the mirror Penny. For youth is wasted on the young and old age comes to us all.

When did it happen that we lost respect for our ageing population?

Was it during the hey-day of wealth creation when anyone NOT contributing to our economic growth ceased to be of value?

As a foreign correspondent I have lived in far less wealthy societies where the old are respected as "Elders". Here they are referred to as the "elderly" - as a burden.

I have just interviewed Paul Burstow the Minister of State for Care Services. He welcomed today's report: promising action to ban "ageist" language from the NHS.

But identifying a problem in a report is far easier than solving it with resources.

Those working in the NHS point out that MORE nurses are needed, not just BETTER nurses.

Unison, the union, says the bottom line is better care will cost more and funding cuts will make matters worse.

Mr Burstow says its all about spreading best practice, not just about more money.

At a time when there is unlikely to be much more money if any, let's hope he's right.

Dignity and compassion should after all, cost nothing.

But I doubt in today's pressurised world, they do.

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