AS soon as we are born our life begins with vulnerability, a life where we rely on the care and compassion of adults, a life that is literally in the hands of others.

This vulnerability isn’t one that we never return to – in fact, it returns as we age, but unlike our early years, it’s not always anticipated or planned for.

Many say it is a privilege to grow old, and as someone who lost their mother at the age of a mere 49, I can wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment. But we must ask ourselves, what kind of life can we give our older folks?

How can we ensure the vulnerabilities of old age aren’t taken advantage of and that our elderly have a decent standard of living? How can we really make old age a privilege?

Recently, I met with representatives from Hourglass, a UK charity dedicated to supporting vulnerable elderly people against exploitation and abuse. It was both enlightening and deeply troubling to hear about the many ways our elderly citizens are often taken advantage of – frequently by those closest to them.

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This has solidified in my mind that the notion of “stranger danger” has been an unhelpful myth, not only for our children but also for those suffering from domestic abuse and, of course, our elderly.

According to Hourglass, one in six older people in the UK is a victim of abuse. This is a heart-breaking statistic, and it’s one that we must create awareness of.

Elder abuse is often hidden, happening behind closed doors, and it’s up to all of us to ensure that our elderly people are safe and protected. The security and safety of our aging population must be a priority for all spheres of government.

The complexities of our ageing population – the UK is now demographically top heavy – present challenges not only in terms of care but also economically. We need to consider how we can protect our pensioners and ensure they have as healthy a retirement as possible, with adequate financial support to do this.

Increasing the state pension and providing better support for our elderly could lead to a mentally and physically healthier ageing population, which benefits us all.

Our older generation tends to spend locally, serve as key family support figures, contribute to community groups, and act as vital mentors for young people. Isn’t it time we re-evaluated how we view our elderly, increased their pensions, and recognised the positive contributions they make to society?

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When we look eastwards, we see a significant difference in how society’s elders are perceived. They are not seen as burdens but are respected as wise contributors to society, often holding key positions.

In my role as a constituency MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast, I see first-hand the invaluable contributions of our older generation. The charities and community groups I visit often act as the glue holding our communities together, largely thanks to the efforts of our seniors.

Take the Men’s Sheds, for example. They not only provide practical help but also offer vital mental health support, combating isolation and loneliness, and I was deeply grateful to see that the Scottish Government has provided them with much-needed funding to continue this essential work.

Our society’s attitude towards our elders has often been negative, and it’s a shame. We don’t treasure our grandparents enough until they are gone, and then we see the huge hole they leave in our lives. I miss my grandparents terribly. My grandmothers were incredible, strong, and unique women. I miss them every day, I wish I had more time with them and more of their wise counsel.

The National: Activists from Believe in Scotland, Yes for EU, Pensioners for Independence and Salvo in Perth

In an independent Scotland, one of the priorities should be to increase the pension and hold the retirement age steady. This would ensure that our elderly can enjoy their golden years without the constant worry of financial instability, ensuring a healthier longer retirement.

According to Age Scotland, about 150,000 pensioners in Scotland are living in poverty. Increasing the pension would not only help lift many out of poverty but also provide them with the financial freedom to make choices about their retirement. Whether they choose to continue working, volunteer, support younger family members, or simply enjoy a well-deserved rest, having the financial means to do so is crucial.

The state pension remains a reserved matter for Westminster. Unfortunately, the UK Government seems to think that the solution is to raise the pension age, and keep paying the lowest pension rate in Europe, effectively making people work longer for less time in retirement and less money when they do retire. This is appalling. Many of our pensioners do continue to work, volunteer, and contribute to the economy in various ways.

Supporting our elderly isn’t just a moral obligation, it’s also an economic necessity. A healthy, active elderly population can contribute to the economy, support younger generations, and reduce the strain on public services. So, by investing in our elderly, we are investing in the future of our society.

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We need to look differently at how we overcome some of the issues we face as an ageing population. In these hard times, with incredible public service pressures, is the aspect of intergenerational living worth exploring? For some maybe it could work, for others I am sure I can hear “absolutely not!”.

But in many cultures around the world, it is common for multiple generations to live together, providing mutual support and care. This can be beneficial for both the elderly and younger generations, fostering stronger family bonds and a greater sense of community. But this must be a choice and not a necessity.

The way we treat our elderly is a reflection of our values as a society. By increasing pensions, and addressing elder abuse, we can make a start on creating a society where our elderly are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.

Let us not wait until our grandparents are gone to appreciate their wisdom and contributions. Let us act now to ensure that they can enjoy their golden years in comfort and security.