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Don’t give out free bus passes to people until they’ve hit 70

PUBLISHED: 18:05 17 October 2018 | UPDATED: 11:02 18 October 2018

Baby Boomers are generally accepted to have been born between about 1946 and 1964

Baby Boomers are generally accepted to have been born between about 1946 and 1964

Rachel Moore says many baby boomers are selfish - and, compared to the generations who came after - they don’t know they’re born

Driving more than 300 miles a week on Norfolk’s roads offers a lot of thinking time.

My latest in-car poll was calculating the age group of the most selfish, rude and impatient drivers – those really annoying scowly people who never wave you into a line of traffic, acknowledge you when you give them the right of way and hog the outside lane in a dual carriageway driving at 40.

The crown went to the ‘silver drivers’; the over 60s, who have probably got all the time in the world but still believe their right is to come first because they have, somehow, earned an entitlement to their own way, always.

They demonstrate a similar attitude in supermarkets, barging into queues, never apologising if their trolley shoves your shins and huffing, puffing and muttering if they, for any reason, are held up at the till by anyone in front of them.

Self-absorbed and privileged, the ‘I’m alright, Jack. Ring the bell conductor, I’m on the bus, stuff the rest of ‘em’ attitude is never a good look, especially on people who should have the wisdom and grace to know better.

So, to read that the lovely North Norfolk Coasthopper bus service, a passport to exploring some of the UK’s most lovely coastline and villages, is under threat because most of the people using it are presenting a free bus pass wasn’t a huge surprise.

If 80% of customers are using free passes on the routes between Wells and North Walsham – some routes are 90% concessionary fees – Sanders coaches can hardly be expected to run an effective business with only 20% hard cash.

Again, it’s that baby boomer generation who, compared to their parents and now their children and grandchildren, have had everything handed on a plate, with jam on, and more, who I often see spoiling it for everyone else.

I know it’s not something they like to be said. And of course I know they’ve worked hard for what they have. But so does everyone else – I just can’t help feeling that the baby boomers were merely lucky enough to be born at the right time to enjoy privileges and leg-ups that no generation after them, or before them, enjoyed.

Baby boomers hold more than 75% of the nation’s wealth, so isn’t it time they acknowledged their luck and did the decent thing of recognising that they have benefited from financial advantages their parents and their children could only dream of?

The over 60s today are both the luckiest generation and the most selfish. I see lots of them sitting pretty, mortgage-free on homes that have rocketed in value in housing booms, with generous final-salary pensions and early retirement, in rude health after a life of free universities, full employment and jobs for life.

Of course it’s not the same for all of them. Of course there is fuel poverty. Of course many need those free bus passes and rural isolation and loneliness are huge issues for many over 60s.

But I also see many of them enjoying tripping around the world ‘skiing’ – spending their kids’ inheritance on cruises, winter holidays and luxury breaks. Then leaving their new cars in the garage to use the free bus pass handed out to all men and women at a woman’s retirement age, even to those who don’t need them.

The concept is ludicrous. 
Now 60 is the new 50, with people more fit, healthy and wealthy than ever, it’s time to up the bus pass age to 70 or even 75 to make life a bit fairer.

After all, this was the generation that voted for Thatcher, embraced the concept of the individual before society and state help and were encouraged to accumulate for themselves and not the greater good. To use a state handout when it’s not needed feels very hypocritical.

Of course, it’s about more than bus passes.

The chasm between the lives of the luckiest generation and their children and grandchildren is widening.

As they spend their ‘silver pound’, their children are having sleepless nights about affording the sky-high house prices their parents have cashed in on, an out-of-control rental market that is sapping young people of ever affording anything but the rent, a rapidly imploding environment they have helped to ruin and student tuition fees and maintenance loans that will hang around their necks for the next 20-odd years.

While the baby boomers enjoyed jobs for life, the next generations are fretting on short-term and zero-hours contracts, considering never having the expense of children because of financial insecurity.

Pensions – what pensions? – are something old people have but which will be obsolete for this generation.

And I’ve seen over-60s with the temerity to dismiss this generation, so full of worry about a dismal future, as “snowflakes!”

They really do need to take a long hard look at themselves and the reality of life for others.

If people can afford – and are fit and healthy enough – to enjoy annual cruises, golf club membership and to run two cars, they can afford to pay bus fares.

Especially while their children are really struggling in two-income families, with crippling mortgages, childcare costs and no option but to work well into their 70s – the first generation in modern history likely to be poorer than their parents will be 25% worse off when they reach 65.

Not their fault in any way, just the luck of the draw.

Expecting intergenerational fairness is a pipedream, but there are such glaring inequalities that could be sorted with a quick fix, like scrapping free bus passes until 70 or 75.

And for this generation to acknowledge, with some grace, that the world does not belong to them.

What do you think? Is Rachel right or wrong? Write to: The Letters Editor, EDP, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE or email: EDPLetters@archant.co.uk

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