Did Sunak kick pensioner’s walking sticks away?

I’m not sure I’ve ever written a headline before but I’ve got one in the Daily Express this week. 

I’m in my sixties and run a fair bit (if you run , let’s follow on Strava). Am I being ageist, characterising pensioners as dependent on walking sticks? I’m pretty sure I am.

But my Mum has taught me not to go out on the moors without sticks

For more of my Mum in action , read to the end”

It’s a stereotype reinforcing a view of pensioners as dependents and victims.  Think of Alex Ferguson or Ros Altman and you wouldn’t think of those words.

But I needed an image that got people thinking of the vulnerability of older people who have no alternative source of income. I wanted what I had to say to be heard.

I suspect that a lot of good journalists, including Rebekah Evans who wrote the article in the Express, would rather have that headline attributed to a third party

But at least it talks to how I felt when I listened to Rishi Sunak’s Spring Statement and it’s not some super-aware nonsense about teaching pension planning in infant schools.

And society doesn’t quite work like this – anymore!



Getting heard

The country is up in arms and – unlike other recent crisis’, this is not one that can be swept under the carpet. This is very much a pensions crisis – if you are a pensioner that is.

If those who  speak for the “pensions industry” want to be heard, they’ve got to speak about pensions and not just about saving for retirement. Pensions may be 40 years in the planning but they can be 40 years in the spending too.

You save for something out of need and greed. We are fearful that we will need more money than is coming our way, we are greedy for a lifestyle that lets us do what we want. To understand the need for pension planning, we need to think about walking sticks.

All this guff about lifelong learning about the need to save for retirement misses the point.

Pensions BIB?

Kids should be spending time with their grandparents and with older people in general. They need to understand what it is to grow old and understand what older people talk about, think about – what they are and aren’t able to do.

The people who get heard on pensions do so because they consistently talk to the freedom of not having to work and the anxieties of getting old. Pensioner poverty is part of that, but it’s only part of the outcome of retiring,

We have invented this word “outcomes” , which is what people are likely to get from paying national insurance, staying in workplace pensions and making it to a decent age. Let’s not forget that last point, Steve Webb pointed out that the utility (the happiness given) of an income for life, increases as you become aware of your limited life remaining.

These life and death issues, are to the front of our minds, whether we go outside with a walking stick, with a pair of trainers or don’t go outside at all.

A sense of humor is required… (amongst the bacon rind)

Bertold Brecht likened comedy to laughing in church. All tragedians know that, Antigone has some very funny lines, Ian Dury some dark moments, Brecht’s best plays make us laugh when we know we shouldn’t. The “bacon rind” – (slang for “blind”), is a euphemism for any adversity, Dury had to use sticks as his body was twisted from polio and he died a horribly early death at 57.

He was a bit older than me so I used to watch his shows and learn from him like  the kid that never made prefect but everyone liked and respected.

Which is something to aspire to when you get to your sixties and you’re still living on your wits!

“Kicking walking sticks away”.

I’m sure that no press officer , or a compliance officer would allow that phrase into a press release into a press release or financial promotion.

But pensions are like walking sticks, helping elderly people go about their activities of daily living and get out and about. They pay the bills and if they get cut, then choices like “heat and eat” come into play.

Not all pensioners are lucky to stay fit , but even fit ones- use sticks –  and we all need enough income to get by.

Here’s my Mum in Perthshire (near Loch Garry) last week



About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
This entry was posted in pensions. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Did Sunak kick pensioner’s walking sticks away?

  1. Peter Tompkins says:

    Henry. Well done on getting your sound bite on the front page.

    But I disagree with you when you say “Put simply, state pensions are failing to keep pace with inflation, which is likely to cause a financial squeeze for many.”

    That’s not true. The triple lock was suspended but pensions are following the inflation link. The timing issue means that sometimes inflation by April is higher than at the September measuring date. Equally often it is lower. Long term inflation protection is given.

    An inflation-busting state pension increase now will also go to you and me when we get to 66 because it is locked in. And we don’t need it. That’s why I don’t believe in the triple lock.

    Now when people criticise the level of support to the most needy pensioners I’m entirely in agreement. We should be doing much much more at that level. But not to increase my pension take by increasing it for everyone.

Leave a Reply