I still think I’m about 30 but, in fact, in just over a month’s time I shall be 74.  I don’t consider this old – well, not old old at any rate.  My mother died aged 87 and my father aged 98 and they were both definitely old old. 

Recently, rather a lot of things have happened to dent my cheerful denial.  We’ve had reports of terrible goings-on in care homes, reports of ageism in hospitals, reports about serious inadequacies with home care, a programme featuring a man of only 71 opting for assisted suicide, and now the gloomy recommendation that if you are over 65 you should only drink half a glass of wine a day (have you ever tried rationing yourself to half a glass of wine?).  When my mother became ill and miserable I used to urge her to down a few sherries not realising that I was hastening her demise (I hope this admission does not amount to assisting a suicide?).

According to Age Concern, two thirds of women and 50% of men need some kind of care in their retirement.  The advice is to have a plan rather than press on assuming you’ll just drop dead.  But planning your old age is not only depressing, it is also far from straightforward.  Plans, by their very nature, always wrestle with uncertainties, but a plan for getting old old needs a lot of ‘what iffing’ and numerous contingencies.  One of the biggest problems is working out how much money to have stashed away to fund what might be long term care. A miscalculation either way has nasty consequences; not enough and you end up a pauper and a burden on the State (i.e. tax payers), too much and the government takes the surplus after you’ve gone.  Literally a lose-lose.   

The objective is obvious; to die fit.  But what’s the plan?  I guess it amounts to really boring stuff – to eat and drink ‘sensibly’, to go for brisk walks, to do Pilates exercises to reduce the risk of falling over, to trick the brain into thinking you still need it by doing Su Doku.  Oh, and to keep taking the pills.

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