Blackadder star Sir Tony Robinson has told of his horror at how elderly Britons are treated and warned that future generations will look back in shock in a similar way to how we view slavery today. The 76-year-old actor and historian, who played gormless sidekick Baldrick in the hit 1980s comedy, said he cannot be ‘proud’ of the UK until elderly people are treated better.
He suggested we should show them the same respect they do in China.
It comes amid a crisis of loneliness among the elderly and serious concerns about Britain’s creaking social care system.
Sir Tony told former BBC journalists Jane Garvey and Fi Glover for their Off Air podcast: “It is very odd about our society. I’m not suggesting we all become Chinese communists.
“But…it’s about the fact that elderly people have always been incorporated into the body of Chinese culture in a way that elderly people simply aren’t in our country.”
He added: “I can’t imagine that war veterans and D-Day veterans or the like would just be forgotten and ignored in China in the way that we do. It’s rubbish.
“I want to be proud of my country. I think the way we treat our elderly now will be looked back on with the same kind of shock and horror that we think of child labour, or slavery or women down the mines.”
Calling for a national debate on the issue, he said: “I think you have to say ‘Are old people part of us? Or do they stop being part of us somewhere around 65 when we shunt them elsewhere’.
If we are going to say they genuinely are part of us then the things that are important to them ought to be important to all of us just as primary schooling is important to us.”
The former Time Team presenter is an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society after losing both his parents to the disease.
He believes in a century’s time people will look back at the 2020s and ask: “How could they have done it? Did they not see what was going on?”
The Labour Party member told the podcast he was a Republican when he was younger, but his admiration for the late Queen made him change his mind. He said she had done an extraordinary job in holding the country together.
He added: “It seems to me it would be boorish to chop [King] Charles’s head off, for instance, which might have happened had we been French in the 18th century.
“He clearly is a man of integrity. We have all given him so much stick over the decades. He did seem a bit of a twit…but now an awful lot of what he said is profoundly prescient.”
Sir Tony is currently making a documentary about Blackadder and a series about his lifelong obsession with machines.