He asks, "Are we using all of the incentives at our disposal to encourage older people not just to be a negative burden on the state but actually be a positive part of society?" And as they say, this is clearly a question expecting the answer "No".
Meanwhile, Professor James Sefton, a former adviser to the Treasury, has told the same committee that young people were effectively subsidising the older generation and should protest:
"I think they should be angry. I think the deal they are getting is poor," he said.
A couple of weeks ago, of course, I was saying the same thing myself ("Let the pensioners pay).
"Pensioners," I said, "aren’t, after all, the ‘real poor’ — we’re not talking about single mums on housing estates, or people on benefits, are we?"
The only thing is (though this seemed to escape some of my readers), I was being 'tongue in cheek'. Lord Birchard and Prof Sefton are, as far as I can tell, serious.
Now factor in the forthcoming sweeping changes to our laws on euthanasia (no, they're not before Parliament yet, but believe me, they're coming) and you have a truly 'toxic' mixture.
Anyone who has any acquaintance with the elderly will know that the more frail they become the more troubled they are by the fear and embarrassment of being a 'burden' and how important it is to reassure them that they are not, even whilst caring for them may indeed be 'burdensome'.
Yet what Lord Birchard's comments do is introduce the language of 'burden' into our discourse about age, and Prof Sefton introduces envy into the relationship between the elderly and the young.
In understanding the nature of cultural change, the important thing to watch is the cultural 'change makers' - the places where attitudes are formed and the individuals who form them. If Birchard and Sefton are anything to go by, there are some deeply disturbing changes on the way.
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