This is a story of a tortoise and a hare.There have never been more old people in the UK. The tell-tale vase-shaped population chart is widening at the top. Of all the population trends, including ever-present immigration concerns, surely the most pressing but woefully under-addressed is that of the booming golden generation. Set to continue, silver-surfers’ numbers are on the up: according to government statictics, there will be 10.5 million people over the age of 65 by 2011. That means that by 2017, for the first time ever, there will be more people over the age of 40 than under 40.
In the same breath (when indeed old age is mentioned in hushed whispers), we are consistently (and correctly) warned, educated and frightened into envrionmental compliance: reaction to the very real and uncompromising climate crisis. One of its more likely effects, as many an ecologist, historian and anthropologist will tell you, will be the down-scaling and reigning-in of our lifestyles.
To cut a long story short, the rise of the local is an inevitability. Concommitant with strong relationships and understandings at a global level, our local environs will be more fundamental to the sustainance of modern life than ever before.
So, if there are more old people than ever before and if old people use the post office more than any other group, yet there are less post offices than ever before in an era when we are being told to ditch our cars, walk more and shop locally… why are we shutting so many post offices?
Now is a time more than ever to strengthen their presence. Beacons of community, hope and trust, they must surely be one of life’s bricks that pensioners, many of whom live alone, can rely upon for social interaction in a non-intimidatory place where so much is catered for. They are small, easy to reach, hard-working and most importantly, local.
Technology – the hare in our tale – and centralisation, pooled efficiency, power through size and all of those other economic sensibilities may hold answers in the short-term, but are palliative at best. It is surely better to lick a stamp, say good morning to another human and receive a card in the mail than it is to be another number, an electronic account, alone.
Long may our local post offices, like our old friend the tortoise, slowly march on.