Granny Dumping shames us all and shows once again that having children is no guarantee for a peaceful and happy life in old age

By Nina Steele 

Issues related to old ageI couldn’t help shedding some tears while watching BBC Panorama the other day. The show was about the much publicised case of Roger Curry, a 76 year old pensioner from the US. Roger who suffers from dementia, was found abandoned at a bus shelter in Hereford, and subsequently taken to live in a care home, where he stayed for 8 months, before he was flown back to the US. It has now become clear that he was abandoned because his family could no longer afford to pay for his care and hoped that by abandoning him in the UK, he would benefit from the free care that is available to elderly people with no assets.

Watching the show proved once more that having children is no guarantee of a peaceful and happy life in old age, particularly for old people with an illness. Indeed, Mr Curry has two children, one from whom he is estranged and the other one happens to be the one accused of abandoning him in the UK.

Upon watching the show, I did a search on the practice of granny dumping and found that, far from being a new phenomenon, it has in fact been around for centuries, and started in Japan. It is said that: “Centuries ago, Japan created a word called ubasute. Translated as “granny dumping,” it described the practice of poor citizens bringing their senile elders to mountaintops because they can no longer afford their care”. Sadly, the practice is making a comeback in Japan, due to the economic crisis the country has been experiencing since the early 1990s, along with a demographic time bomb, with the country described as having “more people over the age of 65, as a share of the total population, than at any point in its history”.

As the case of Roger Curry shows, granny dumping is widespread in the US as well, and was already being discussed in the early 1990s. “70,000 elderly Americans were estimated to have been abandoned in 1992”. The pattern remains the same; it is often those with an illness who end up being abandoned.

As someone who worked for an old people’s charity for 8 years, I know how much effort goes into caring for an elderly person with a long standing illness. I remember many instances where social services had to step in and take over the care of an elderly person, even though they had children. It is my experience of working with the elderly that has convinced me that no one should ever assume that because they have children, they somehow have an advantage over those who don’t. There are absolutely no guarantees, and as I said many times before, everyone needs to plan for old age, whether you have children or not.

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