Ageing and the issue of caring for older members of the population feature prominently in the Archbishop of Canterbury's exposition of what makes for 'community, courage and stability' in society. At the heart of all he outlines is the story of hope that centres on Jesus Christ.
Focusing on the inequalities in British society, Welby cites statistics from 2012 to 2014 which show that the wealthiest 10 per cent in Britain owned 45 per cent of aggregate household wealth, while the least wealthy 50 per cent owned just 9 per cent of household wealth. Figures since then have stabilised or slightly fallen, he added.
Carers are especially hard hit in the current economic climate. 'Those who can afford care, pay for it, and those who are more vulnerable and cannot afford it, have to put themselves in an even more vulnerable position and give care freely. This is a profound and yet hidden injustice,' he writes.
He explores the so-called 'burden' older people represent for younger generations and how such stresses lead to more calls for euthanasia, assisted suicide, a culture in which older people might feel a necessity to volunteer to die: 'Today's culture does not honour old age, but sees it at best as an inconvenience. Anyone who doubts that needs to consider the regular calls to legalise euthanasia, without adequate consideration of the risk that - in a society where age is not respected - the possibility of assisted suicide will too easily become the duty to ask for death. Leading figures in the various groups campaigning for assisted suicide have pointed to the increasing number of elderly and the economic burden that represents as a reason to support their cause.'
Despite this, he sees signs of hope (of which Anna Chaplaincy for Older People is undoubtedly a part). 'The churches, through education, chaplaincy and the parish system, are in a good place to both draw attention to issues of public health and also to be effective in supporting imaginative and community-based approaches to resolving them.'
In a chapter on 'Health: Healing our brokenness', he reiterates: 'It is essential that the dignity of all is taught clearly through education and example; nothing less is required than a significant culture change, especially towards the elderly.'
This book can be ordered from Amazon