Benefit or burden? Coming to terms with ageing Britain

Wednesday 26 February 2014, 6pm

Event details

British Academy Debates

Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG

Wednesday 26 February 2014, 6pm

Chaired by Evan Davis


Is the welfare generation a myth? Is our ageing population a ‘burden’, or is this just a lazy concept and out of step with the new dynamics of ageing?

What can our economy gain from an older workforce, and how can our politicians and policy makers harness the potential in an ageing population?


‘Towards a new vision of later life’

Professor Alan Walker FBA (the University of Sheffield) argues that ‘burden’ rhetoric is rooted in ageism and, in both scientific and cultural terms, is out of step with the new dynamics of ageing. He advocates an active ageing policy approach to maximise wellbeing in later life and offset negative cost projections.

‘Ageing, the welfare state and equity’

Professor Sir John Hills FBA (LSE) argues that most public spending now goes on the welfare state, with the NHS, pensions and other benefits for the elderly comparatively protected from cuts. As the proportion of older people grows, the cost even of standing still in terms of services will rise.

Are there acceptable ways of avoiding these rising costs or if not, who should pay? Is it a simple matter of an older generation that has benefited most from the welfare state and from rising wealth, while younger ones have borne the brunt of the crisis or is the picture more complex than that?


Bronwen Maddox is the Editor and Chief Executive of Prospect Magazine, the UK's leading current affairs and culture monthly title. She continues to write regular oped and business columns for The Times on world news and economics. Previously, she was US Editor, then Chief Foreign Commentator of The Times, and directed its editorials on foreign affairs.

Professor Julia Twigg (University of Kent)

For more information and to book your free place, visit The British Academy website.