Older people deserve respect and relief from the pressures and fears of declining physical and mental powers, say our readers
I have great respect for Simon Jenkins – he often cuts through the codswallop that often poses as journalism today. Unfortunately, he falls into the trap of Conservative thinking on social care (We all want to live longer, but someone must pay, 1 June). It does seem reasonable that those who have built up assets in their lifetimes should fund their own social care in old age, but this misses the whole point of a progressive system of taxation. Illness, frailty, misfortune can happen to anyone, rich or poor. It’s true the better off tend to live longer, with better health, but that does not mean that individuals cannot be struck down with early-onset dementia, or another devastating condition. Why should those families suffer more than other families whose progenitors were fortunate enough to enjoy perfect health? Progressive taxation, either on wealth or on income, spreads the risk and ensures that the rich and not-quite-so-rich pay their fair share towards the collective health of the nation. An inheritance tax too, properly graduated, should be part of the taxation mix, funding excellent state care for wealthy and poor alike, whatever their individual circumstances.
• Simon Jenkins is right, someone has to pay. But the need for care is a lottery and it falls unfairly on the 10% of those families whose relatives develop dementia, sometimes before they are even considered old. My relative developed Lewy body dementia at the age of 58. If he’d had cancer, he would have been cared for, but his family had to contribute to his nursing home care – after 12 years of his wife providing 24-hour care for free, with a devastating effect on her own life and freedom. Jenkins’s reference to past family situations belies the fact that women were the carers and they are now expected to work outside the home. The amount needed to provide care nationally is not so great in a rich country that we can’t all contribute to care for the sick and vulnerable, whatever their family wealth, just as we do for sick children.