OLDER PEOPLE AND HONESTY

English: Planning Application, Alvington Plann...
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On the radio this morning, Professor Paul Whiteley from Essex University and Director of Britain’s first Centre for The Study of Integrity, was talking about the research project he is involved in. The project looked at how integrity and honesty among younger people has deteriorated. The research implies that young people tolerate dishonesty and adultery and have a marked lack of integrity.

Research projects like this always fascinate me. This one will hit the headlines today, and will be reported differently in each newspaper. The tabloids will have a field day, where as the broad sheets will be more circumspect in their use of descriptive language about the research. I am sure that the good professor and his research team will have substantial proof of their findings, but my generation know that there is also a great deal of dishonesty and missing integrity among our lot, too.

Here’s an example. In a society where old people are devalued and for the most part, ignored except when they have money, developers try to round them up with offers of houses on estates created specifically to meet their needs. These half way estates – I call them that because they are half way between house and nursing home – offer all sorts of perks when you buy into the scheme. Like all such developments, there is a service charge for the facilities that buyers seem happy to pay. However, I know of one such development where the houses are marketed with a whole list of promised facilities that have never materialised. This estate, promoted with a glossy brochure describing all that is on offer in detail, including an on-site 24 hour warden, a clubhouse providing a shop and social space, a bistro cafe, a pretty walk along a nearby stream to the town, is very convincing for prospective retirees and those looking for a home  on a development that offers a sense of security for their later years.

The development was started five years ago and is still only a quarter completed. The roads are still unmade and none of the facilities promised have been put in place, even though they were clearly listed in the legal documents that the buyers signed when completing their house purchases.  Because the developer has not demanded the monthly maintenance charge (there is nothing to pay for anyway) the people living in these new houses feel obliged to say nothing. It is hard for older people to complain. Maybe, this is a generation where least said, soonest mended is the norm?  To use another cliché, sticking your head in the sand is preferable to making a fuss. So this developer, a man in his sixties, could be guilty of misrepresentation and breach of contract. This is clearly dishonest and shows a total lack of integrity, but it appears to be accepted by the residents and the local council who probably know there has been a breach of the planning application, but appear to be very slow in enforcing the law. What is particularly annoying for these residents is that the developer would probably never have been allowed to build on the land, had he not agreed to comply with the planning conditions and develop a site of homes with detailed facilities for older residents, which are all clearly listed in the planning application.

As far as I am aware, none of these residents can afford to take this man to court. They are caught in a situation where they feel grateful that they are not paying charges, yet worried and disillusioned that the facilities they thought they bought into have failed to materialise. These facilities were the very reason they chose to live on such a development in the first place. This development continues to be marketed by estate agents using the same glossy brochure. Those now trapped on the estate cannot sell their homes, because prospective buyers always ask difficult questions, like: Where are the facilities promised in the brochure and legal documents?  While an estate agent may be good at being vague and suggest that the developer is simply late in putting in the facilities, residents find it hard to answer such questions without feeling they are telling half-truths. And there is now another issue. If someone dies and the house is bequeathed to a relative, it will be difficult for them to sell. Not something that anyone would wish upon a loved one chosen to inherit.

I have no idea how this situation will be resolved, but I know that this is the sort of dishonesty that is all around us and it is not just young people behaving without integrity.  You just have to do some research to see that there is an increase in a lack of morals, ethics and honesty across the board. This applies to young and old and it is on the increase. Most of the people involves in the debacle I have written about here, are well over fifty years of age.

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