View more on these topics

Alistair McQueen: Forcing ageing issues into the political spotlight

Lessons can be learned from environmental activists in attracting serious attention

What keeps you awake at night? This is a question opinion pollsters at Ipsos Mori have been asking for decades and share the findings of in their monthly Issues Index. It offers a fascinating insight into the minds of the public. According to the latest index, Brexit tops our worry list, with 68 per cent of adults ranking it as a major issue. The NHS and crime come second and third.

Back in 2011, our ageing population was added to the index. Then, just 4 per cent viewed it as a big issue. It was ranked 22nd on our list of 35 worries, sitting above bird flu, below petrol prices and beside the environment.

The ranking of ageing next to the environment is interesting. Both are now accepted to be sources of significant challenge for society in the years to come. At the same time, both are long-term issues that struggle to find resolution in our short-term electoral cycle. The temptation to leave tomorrow’s problems for tomorrow’s people is great. But the scale of tomorrow’s problems is huge. With regards to our ageing population, the increased costs of pensions, healthcare and social care are identified as key factors in the Office for Budget Responsibility’s projected £172bn increase in annual public spending over the next 50 years.

To put this into context, £172bn is more than the government currently spends each year on defence, policing, transport, housing, agriculture and the environment combined. It would be incorrect to attribute all this projected increase to ageing but a significant proportion could be, if action is not taken today.

A top-10 ranking on the Issues Index appears to be a prerequisite for political action and, since 2011, both ageing and the environment have been moving in that direction.

Ageing peaked at number seven on the list of 35 worries in summer 2017. This high ranking came in the wake of the May general election, when the “dementia tax” made its way into the Conservative manifesto. It has since fallen back to a ranking between 11th and 15th. Solid, but just outside the top 10. The environment has echoed this. For most of 2011 to 2017, it was on the up but scoring just behind ageing. This changed in 2018.

Last year, the environment overtook ageing as a cause of public concern. Since July, it has secured a consistent top-10 ranking. That is nine months in the spotlight of political attention. Indeed, the environment is establishing itself as an issue in need of immediate action, beside the big beasts of the economy, the NHS, immigration, Europe and housing.

Our industry carries a responsibility to respond to the challenges of ageing. So what can we learn from the environmentalist community who are so far winning the race for public attention?

Both issues abound in academic insight. There is no shortage of inspiration for those who are led by their heads. Millions of us, however, are led by our hearts. And the environmentalists know this.

One image of an animal drowning in an ocean of plastic has more impact than 1,000 industry reports.

And, support her or not, the quiet words of 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg have secured public, media and political attention the activists on ageing issues can only dream of.

The need is for tomorrow’s massive challenges to drive massive action today. The environmentalists are achieving this goal. The ageing activists are struggling. Perhaps we need our own Greta Thunberg.

Alistair McQueen is head of savings and retirement at Aviva



FSCS claims over collapsed DFM Beaufort to be settled in coming weeks

The Financial Services Compensation Scheme is processing around 1,400 negligence claims against collapsed discretionary fund manager Beaufort Securities, it has confirmed. The lifeboat fund tells Money Marketing that decisions on the claims will start to be finalised at the beginning of May. Beaufort Securities became the target of both FBI investigations in the US and FCA sanctions […]

Tech, low productivity & zombie companies – the outlook for UK equities

Is uncertainty creating a buying opportunity for active managers or is the UK at risk of becoming a zombie nation due to flagging fundamentals? Watch Cherry Reynard, Mark Martin and James Dowey discuss the UK investment landscape today. Watch the video here In this video, the panellists discuss: What the underlying fundamentals are telling us about […]


Don’t bank on a hike just yet

Jonathan Platt, head of fixed income at Royal London Asset Management, highlights three bond market trends this week and says don’t bank on a hike just yet. Read the article here The value of investments and the income from them is not guaranteed and may go down as well as up and investors may not […]


News and expert analysis straight to your inbox

Sign up


    Leave a comment


    Why register with Money Marketing ?

    Providing trusted insight for professional advisers.  Since 1985 Money Marketing has helped promote and analyse the financial adviser community in the UK and continues to be the trusted industry brand for independent insight and advice.

    News & analysis delivered directly to your inbox
    Register today to receive our range of news alerts including daily and weekly briefings

    Money Marketing Events
    Be the first to hear about our industry leading conferences, awards, roundtables and more.

    Research and insight
    Take part in and see the results of Money Marketing's flagship investigations into industry trends.

    Have your say
    Only registered users can post comments. As the voice of the adviser community, our content generates robust debate. Sign up today and make your voice heard.

    Register now

    Having problems?

    Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3712

    Lines are open Monday to Friday 9:00am -5.00pm