Current Issue #488

Third Age: Be A Devil at the Ballot Box

Third Age: Be A Devil at the Ballot Box

In this lengthy interregnum, old people are tempted to switch off the political noise. Have you reached the stage when you’d rather watch the funeral insurance ads on afternoon TV than another patronising defence of the Budget or slanging match from any side?

But old people simply cannot afford to ignore what is going on. The result from July 2 may affect the rest of our lives. For the oldest among us, this could be our last government. Forget charisma. We need to get our votes right.

And leave behind a better environment for the increasing numbers of old people in our society. That means putting your own interests forward as never before. We cannot afford to do otherwise.

Ask yourself what the Budget did for the not-well-off aged and ageing sector of the population and go armed to the ballot box. What the now famous Duncan did on Q&A for the lowest paid in our society, applies to the old with little or no super. Duncan was wonderfully tough standing up to the powerful and patronising. We oldies have to be too.

Ask yourself if the person standing for your federal electorate is someone you could go to if suddenly you were threatened with, say, homelessness. We don’t only vote for policies, you know.

We gift our MPs and Senators with power. We may need to access that power. So your vote needs to go to the candidate most likely to let you bend her or his ear and do something for you. I hear old people talk about young people being shut out of the housing market, but not so much about the increasing numbers of homeless old people.

Yes, the very age group being encouraged not to be selfish, to downsize to give the kids a go. We’d all like to see young people have access to affordable education, to good jobs and housing. But unless old people are in a good place they cannot help.

And often they are not. I have waited for good policies to come forward for the old in State and Federal parliaments. Appointing cronies to some commission or council for the aged or other does not do it for me. I want explicit policies formed from consultation with the old themselves and not only the well-off old… pensioners, people living in aged care, aged-carers-of-the-aged, the homeless aged.

Where we sometimes go wrong in organisations looking after the interests of the aged is that they want to please everyone as well as the aged. Maybe their re-appointment depends on it.

A good example is in state politics where old people’s organisations started to “see the motorists point of view” in getting bicycles onto footpaths. Bikes on footpaths are death to the old. They’ll either get bumped off or forced to stay in the homes and die from lack of exercise and access to shops and company.

Yes, I know a minute percentage of old people ride bikes and would like to ride on footpaths, but riding bikes is a choice for them. Pedestrians have no choice but to walk on footpaths, even if it’s just to put the bins out. Will they remember to look both ways at their front gate? The deaf will never hear bikes coming from behind so it’s goodnight to them. Why on earth would people think it’s in the interests of the old they represent to have bikes on footpaths? Federally, the hazards may be just as life threatening.

What is your estimate of aged care in private homes and in “facilities?” Will the standards be maintained as more and more old people require them? And if more cuts to funding are made? So far it bodes ill.

Which party is most likely to take a new approach purely for the welfare of the old, not just to try to tidy away the “avalanche” of old people expected soon. By the way, never vote for anyone who speaks of an avalanche or a tsunami of old people. Stand on your dignity. Collar your local candidates and ask them what their policies are concerning the old and how they intend them to be carried out and by whom. Don’t be fobbed off by any replies such as “the responsibility of the states.”

Old people’s changing work and life needs are a major federal issue, just one that is not heard about nearly enough. We want good ideas informing good policy – and that means a LOT of consultation with the aged. NB as always: only the old know what it’s like to be old. There are not many ordinary old people in any of our parliaments.

So that’s how I’m listening to the political speeches… with a finely tuned-up ear, mechanically enhanced, for even just glimpses of understanding about people who are ageing and old. Who want to live and want to work. Who want to be well and a fford medication. So far, I could have saved my batteries.

But I have a fair idea who the arrogant chaps are, who think they will never be old, only rich and old, which ain’t how most old people in our society are. Go on, feel “selfish” this once, if selfish is how it feels; though the truth is we contribute to society, have contributed in the past, and are doing so now, and have as just a claim as any to be sustained in our little lives, free of abuse, free of being cold, able to afford health care.

Apply for a postal vote if you think it’s too hard to get to the booths. Go on, be a devil.


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