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Sample description of a system


Describe how elderly people are cared for in your country

Model answer written by Gerard Sharpling


In the United Kingdom, it has been argued that care of elderly people is not as good as it could be. However, this may be an over-generalisation, since in some ethnic minority communities, elderly people continue to be given pride of place in the family unit [comment 1] .


One particular problem is that within most white British families, there is a general reluctance on the part of younger people to look after an elderly relative when they become infirm and unwell. The lives of many families are constructed around the notion that both younger partners go out to work, and this may leave little time for families who are hard-pressed financially to care for their relatives, especially if they are dependent on two wages or salaries to make ends meet [comment 2] .


A further difficulty facing elderly people [comment 3] is that they generally have very little to live on when they retire. The value of pensions has been reduced in recent years and many pensioners are living either on or below the poverty line [comment 4] . This is a further reason why they are often unable to take care of themselves.


One solution to this dilemma is for families to use care homes and for elderly people to live in good quality residential accommodation [comment 5] . However, because work in the care profession is poorly paid, the quality of some care homes has been called into question. There have been some cases in the news where elderly people have died in care homes through neglect. The NHS has also been criticised for failing to provide appropriate treatment to older people.


Another issue with care or residential homes is that they are expensive for residents [comment 6] . There have been stories of older people having to sell their family homes to pay for residential care. In the UK, it is generally felt that successive governments have done little to support the needs of older people. They have successively reduced the value of pensions in real terms, and have not made reductions in local tax for those who can least afford to pay. Inheritance tax, too, which is payable when a child inherits property from his or her parents, has risen, and the state pension, where people are eligible for it, also has little value nowadays.


In conclusion, it seems necessary for us to re-evaluate the importance of elderly people within our UK society and to ensure, at least, that they can live a financially secure life when they become too old to work. [comment 7] 



This text is organised according to a problem-solution formula. There are other ways in which the organisation could be made; however the problem-solution type text seems to work well here because the title is short and asks only for description.
  [comment 1]  Importance/relevance of the topic: The writer introduces here the importance and relevance of the topic. He/she is also expressing the view that while criticising the way that elderly people are often cared for in the UK, this may be too much of a generalisation. This is because in some homes, elderly people receive positive and appropriate care.


  [comment 2]  Problem 1: The writer puts forward the view that, in many families, both parents go out to work and so it is difficult to provide the sort of care that is required.


  [comment 3]  Problem 2: This paragraph introduces another problem (an economic one - namely the falling value of pensions) to reinforce the idea that elderly people may not be as well looked-after as they could be.


  [comment 4] This is an idiom in English and is useful to include in sociological accounts.


  [comment 5]  Solution 1: This sentence introduces a possible solution to the problem, namely improving the quality of care homes.


  [comment 6]  Solution 2: A further reason is now given as to why the care home solution may not work.


  [comment 7]  Further problematisation: In the conclusion, the writer indicates the need to look again at the question and to explore it in more detail.



The text was prepared by Dr Gerard Sharpling