Seniors become five days a week slaves – Elder abuse on a grand scale!

My article published in Crikey 19/12/13

Most people who reach the traditional retirement age, look forward to spending more time together, particularly doing a lot of travel, even though many choose to work part time as a necessary step to increase their inadequate superannuation. But, they are now denied this well-earned right because their children pressure them to look after the grandchildren so both parents can be in full time employment and maintain a lifestyle that their parents never experienced.

Seniors become five days a week slaves because their children prey unashamedly on granny’s undeniable love of grandchildren. Their motivation is that, by avoiding child care fees, they save at least 10% of their pay packet. This act of selfishness, represents elder abuse on a grand scale and it is a disgrace. Indeed, it can be a breach of age discrimination laws.

However, despite the fact that most parents would clearly prefer higher government child care subsidies in preference to paid maternity leave, Tony Abbott has been given a misguided electoral mandate to introduce six months paid parental leave and will do so during 2014. It is a social tragedy as it also represents another form of elder abuse, because those paid parental leave funds rightfully should be diverted in full to grandparents for their massive contribution to child care which is irresponsibly taken for granted by children and politicians.

Right now, 40% of children in Australia are cared for by grandparents and this figure increases daily as more and more parents feel growing cost pressures and take children out of child care centres to relieve the burden of this problem. Indeed, 2 out of 3 parents want their parents to care for their children on a regular basis. This is not surprising as 66% of mothers are in employment.

The one who suffers most from this form of elder abuse is Grandma. In many circumstances, she was denied a career because the social pressure of her era made her a stay at home Mum. Now, in her senior years, she dreams of getting back into employment to prove the skills that she was stopped from using all those years ago. But, she is denied it once more by children who forget that she has human aspirations just as much as they do.

It’s bad for national economics too as, with a falling birth rate and an ageing workforce, she is needed as a positive contributor.

But a social revolt is blossoming. Often, mothers ask neighbours and friends to be their babysitters and now those folk are saying no in increasing numbers as they want a life of their own just as grandparents do and they are also wary of legal responsibilities if accidents happen.

This trend is encouraging grandparents to start their revolt too. It will grow and rightly so.

There is also an educational gap. Sociologists say that a child cared for by grandparents does not mature as quickly as one in childcare as, no matter how skilled and devoted grandparents are, they are not trained teachers.

So, the onus is on governments to invest far more in child care and early childhood education while increasing parent subsidies so every child has as much access as they will when they start school.

Saying that government can’t afford the additional costs of childcare is a nonsense.

Scrapping six months paid parental leave is essential. It is an outrageous extravagance, the scrapping of which will make most voters cheer as it unnecessarily helps women who, in many cases, are wealthy. It is one of the most wasteful examples of greedy middle class entitlement that I have witnessed in my 82 years.

Of course, this issue must also be looked at in reverse also. Too many older Australians expect their families to be their carer at home when they reach the stage of advanced geriatric illness. This must cease too as it is another form of child abuse and too many oldies prey on their children’s love in those circumstances. Clearly, we need more nursing homes.

So, the ageing tsunami is upon us. Seniors want independence. So do their children. Governments are way behind the eight ball is keeping up with these major social developments of the day. If they act now, it will cost the economy less than if we pretend it doesn’t exist. It will also boost productivity among the old and the young.

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