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Unnecessary costs of the elderly

By Valerie Yule - posted Thursday, 31 March 2011

The costs of the elderly for society are going up because there are more of us. That is a plain fact.  In a world of declining resources and more poverty abroad, we have this to face.

But each of the elderly in this country is costing us more through rules and regulations designed for a world of plenty. Can we do anything about this?

Take me, for example.


All I cost the community are five meals-on-wheels a week and one-and-a-half hours home-care every two weeks.

I think that is fair enough at age 82, and I am grateful for it.

But the cost of the meals and the home help are escalating in ways I cannot do anything about.  These extra costs on the environment and society are more than I think I am worth.

The extra costs are escalating in order to save councils from the fear of being sued.  I doubt if they save anyone from disease or disability, but would like evidence on that point.

The home-care now involves the carer in a new pair of rubber gloves and a new plastic apron for each visit to an old person.  Instead of using clean household rags for cleaning, she must use and then discard bought cleaning cloths – remember, please, that old people’s housing gets less dirty than busy homes.

The home-help also has a uniform, a special bag, and stacks of forms, with only a little information on each form.


Meals on wheels were as good as restaurant meals when they were frozen and then distributed. Now they are often pasteurised as well, and we are back to the old times when vegetables were tasteless messes – for the sake it is said of allowing them to be frozen again. This seems to be to be needless.

The meals are in single-use plastic dishes which can be microwaved. One old person throws out at least 15 plastic dishes a week. This adds up, for the number used altogether by old people taking meals-on-wheels.  It represents in fact an enormous sum if we could invent cheap washable microwave dishes that could be used again. Surely they have already been invented?  For the whole take-away food industry?  We buy them for our homes, and have no trouble with them.

The dishes for meals-on-wheels are brought in one plastic bag per person, which makes it easy to distribute them correctly.  But these bags are one-way only. ‘For health reasons.’ With each plastic dish in the bags already sealed?   What health? Each old person getting meals-on-wheels may now throwout at least five of these large plastic bags per week. They can put their rubbish in these plastic bags, to put in their rubbish bins, say those who have not thought about how wastefully we collect our rubbish in plastic bags to put in rubbish bins.  We throw out so much packaging – the packaging is sufficient to put our soft food-rubbish in, for placing in rubbish bins.  I have a worm-farm made of two plastic sieves and a bottomless plastic-can from a building site, as well as a compost-bin, so no soft kitchen scraps go in my rubbish-bin, only packaging and bones.  The packaging is sufficient to hold the bones safely. 

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About the Author

Valerie Yule is a writer and researcher on imagination, literacy and social issues.

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