Good old Victor Meldrew was a paradigm for men of a certain age. Pottering about in the garden shed, furious at the excesses of the modern would, fulminating against the decline in manners, courtesy, grammar, and just about everything else. The archetypal grumpy old man. But a figure that many of us regarded with a certain grudging affection — even if we could not quite extend the same benign assessment to the political views of actor Richard Wilson, who played the part..
Yet a new study turns the old cliché on its head. Apparently many older people today reach retirement healthy, happy, and with enough money, and enough time, to enjoy life. Far from grumpy old men, these older people are characterised as “The Golden Agers”.
To be fair, the grumpy old man has always attracted a certain amount of criticism. Back in the Old Testament (Ecclesiastes 7:10) we read “Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? For thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this”.
We should recall that while many older people are doing rather well, there are all too many who are not, and who actually need their bus passes and winter fuel allowance. And some feel that the Golden Agers are riding on the backs of their children. David Willetts recently wrote a very thoughtful book, “The Pinch: How the baby boomers took their children’s future — and why they should give it back”. There is indeed a case that current retirees have done hugely well out of a lifetime of free education, free health care (both now more restricted) and of course out of the exceptional profits made by those who were fortunate enough to own property through the boom years.
Many fear that young people today will look forward to a much tougher time, leaving university with massive debts and limited job prospects, unable to contemplate house purchase until their late thirties, if ever (I bought my first house at 23).
On the plus side, recessions don’t last for ever, and if we as a country can pay down debt, reduce taxes, and promote economic growth and free markets, then today’s new graduates could well be as prosperous in forty years time as some of today’s retirees. Though if we stay in the economically dysfunctional EU, and if we keep pouring billions into the black hole of green climate policies, their prospects are bleak indeed.
But even though I’m contemplating retirement, I still can’t see myself as a “golden ager”. I think I’ll stick to being a Grumpy Old Man. It’s what I do best.