HEALTH secretary Andy Burnham last night signed up to the idea of a charter on changing attitudes towards the elderly, started by North East academics.
The Labour candidate, on the campaign trail for his party in the region, said while he had yet to see the proposal in full, it sounded like something he “would be happy to sign”.
Mr Burnham said he had never viewed elderly members of society as a “burden”, instead seeing them as a “benefit” to the communities they live in.
He said: “We have always tried to put the emphasis on people enjoying their later life.
“I actually see the current situation as a huge benefit and an opportunity for people to be able to live longer, more fulfilling lives.
“At the same time we need to deal with the issue of how we pay for the provision of social care, and take away any fear and anxiety.
“I think we have a very unfair system at the moment which needs addressing.”
Mr Burnham said it was his party’s policy to give people the opportunity to work longer, if they so choose, without forcing those who might struggle to work later in life to continue past retirement age.
His comments came after an open letter from Professor Tom Kirkwood, the head of Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing and Health, yesterday accused the three main political parties of casting Britain’s ageing population in terms of the “cost” to the state, rather then celebrating their longer lives.
During his visit to North Shields, Redcar and Saltburn, Mr Burnham focused on the Tories’ unfavourable attitude towards regional politics, warning development agencies such as One North East could face the axe if David Cameron’s party were elected.