The UK is becoming more “elder rich…”
In the space of a week, the writer and long-time editor, Diana Athill, has notched up a brace of distinctions. She received an OBE in the New Year Honours List for services to literature, and last night she won the Biography category of the Costa Book Awards with her memoir, Somewhere Near the End, which makes her a contender for the Book of the Year prize when the results are announced later this month.
Still more remarkable is that Ms Athill recently turned 91. Energetic, appreciative, and – it goes without saying – in possession of all her faculties, she is a one-woman advertisement for Britain’s ageing society. A brave and highly regarded editor, she started late as a writer, publishing her first book at the age of 43. She has used her long life to maximum, and enviable, advantage.
In so doing, Ms Athill offers a timely antidote to the doom-mongering consensus that regards an ageing society only as a problem, and an expensive one at that. In the UK, there are now more over-60s in the population than there are under-18s. But I have never quite bought into the idea that longer life-expectancy need be the burden that will bankrupt the state. (You could even argue the opposite, given the mayhem created by a younger generation of risk-taking bankers left to its own devices.)
The Headline, “An ageing society isn’t all bad news” irks me though. It’s as if it was a great surprise that there could be value in aging…