Professor Ernest Taylor is a sociologist and the author of a number of books. He was interviewed recently on CBC radio by Norman Blunt.
Now Professor, in your latest book Granny Doesn't Live Here Any More, you suggest that Granny is a problem, and she is going to become even more of a problem in the future. Am I correct?
Yes, in fact it's not only Granny who is a problem, it's Grandfather, too, and old people in general.
Now, is this a peculiarly British phenomenon? It seems very sad that parents should give so much of their lives to bringing up their children and then, when they become old, be regarded as a problem.
Our research was mainly carried out in Britain. In many countries it is still regarded as quite natural that a widowed mother should go to live with one of her married children, but in Britain, certainly during the last thirty or forty years, there has been considerable resistance to this idea.
Now why do you think this is? Surely having a Granny about the place to take care of the younger children,and give a hand with the housework, can take a lot of pressure off a young wife, can't it?
Yes, I think this is true. But remember the old people themselves are of ten totally opposed to the idea of going to live with the young family. And modern houses and flats are very small, much smaller than the sort of homes people used to live in.
And when Granny gets very old, then the situation becomes even worse, doesn't it?
Yes, as long as old people are able to look after themselves, the system works quite well. But as soon as they need anything in the way of care and attention, the situation becomes very difficult indeed.
Well, presumably a point comes when old people have to go into a nursing home or something similar.
Yes, but it's not as simple as that. Because of improvements in medical science, life expectancy is increasing all the time. The birth rate has fallen. This means that an ever smaller working population is havingto provide for an ever larger number of old people, in need of care and attention.
The number of places in old people's homes provided by the State is strictly limited. There are private nursing homes, but the cost is way out of reach of the average family.
And how do you see the situation developing in the future?
Well, obviously a lot of money is going to have to be spent. But it's difficult persuading people to do this. There aren't many votes for politicians in providing nursing homes for elderly.
You don't see a reversal of this trend, with Granny going back to live with the family.
I think this is most unlikely.