'Like a python swallowing a pig'
Updated: Oct 25, 2019
The baby Boomers phenomenon is 'like a python swallowing a pig', according to Lord Willetts. His graphic description of what happens when more than a million babies were born post-war, skewing the generations, caught the imagination of all present at a prestigious lecture delivered at Methodist Central Hall on 24 October.
The latest edition of David Willett's book, The Pinch: How the baby boomers took their children's future and why they should give it back (Atlantic Books, 2019), was the source of much of the material for the inaugural Walter Hall lecture, named after the founder of Methodist Homes for the Aged (MHA).
Those born between 1945 and 1965 stand accused of shaping a market economy to suit their own preferences, and of consigning their children to being taxed more heavily, working longer hours for less money, having lower social mobility and living in a degraded environment, as he elucidated a raft of statistics.
With baby boomers getting a bad press, Willetts then posed the question of whether those in this generational 'bulge' who are either at the summit of their powers or just retiring, and who had benefited from widespread home ownership, rising house prices and generous pensions thanks to favourable legislation would be prepared to make the sacrifices necessary for a more equal distribution in future.
He pointed to the fact that pensioners in the least well off 20 per cent of the population are better off financially nowadays than those who are of working age in the lowest 20 per cent of society.
Describing grandparents as 'the new housewives', providing much domestic care to their beleaguered offspring, Willetts went on to say that more research was needed into the monetary value of such care. He acknowledged the strains imposed on the 'sandwich generation' of those with duties and responsibilities for their grandchildren, as well as towards their own aged parents.
Duty to ageing parents
A survey, he said, shows that, despite disparities between the affluence of generations young and old, in 1983 only 40 per cent of young people polled acknowledged they had a duty to look after their ageing parents, while in 2017 that number had risen to 63 per cent. Willetts described this effect as having a good deal to do with the so-called 'Bank of Mum and Dad' creating an 'intergenerational contract' between parent and adult children.
As a footnote: grandparents who are baby boomers were also a factor, he said, in childhood obesity, 'because grandparents are a soft touch when it comes to giving the children sweets'.
Care home chaplaincy
Methodist Homes celebrates 75 years of providing residential care – and care home chaplaincy – and supports an estimated 18,500 people thanks to the original backing of the Methodist Church. The Revd Walter Hall, its founder, was moved by the plight of widows after World War II, fearing the fate of ending their lives 'in the workhouse'.
Methodist Homes' first residential home was in Wallington, Surrey. MHA's homes are for all people, 'no matter their faith or background', and the organisation 'continues to be values-led, sustaining its promise to continue delivering high-quality care and support, nurturing mind, body and spirit', according to the charity's 2018/19 Annual Review.