Articles

Arcadia

    We're just sorting out our wills and LPAs (Lasting Power of Attorney).

    It’s a sobering process but it's set me pondering………..

 

    ............We fret and sweat as we plan for our final 1000 days. A lifetime spent preparing for the last bit that will see us ensconced in our retirement homes in faux-leather chairs watching Bargain Hunt or doing jigsaws.

 

    Three years seems an optimistic estimate of the time we spend in our care home. ‘Care Home’ is an awful term; we’ll call it Arcadia from now on. 1000 days is an approximate figure of course, some of us linger longer, others perish promptly. Naturally, it’s health-dependant, but it is more than that. It’s survival of the fittest (or least knackered) as we’re forced to fight for the TV remote or sprint for the last lunchtime sausage. Bit of a conundrum here – the fitter we are when we enter Arcadia, the longer we can expect to endure it! There’s an argument for compulsory incarceration aged 30. All that time, half a lifetime indeed, spent dashing for the last sausage should keep us in tip top condition.


    Arcadia costs vary depending on whether we need ‘rest’ or ‘nursing’; nursing is considerably more. Those with a medical issue sometimes need expensive clinical assistance to keep dribbling. Those who are fitter shuffle themselves independently round the circle of life: bed to breakfast to telly to lunch to jigsaw to dinner to sleep to nightcap to bed to breakfast…. to wooden box - eventually.


     Bugger, I hate thinking about this, but it seems I must. It’s unsavoury but unavoidable, part of my journey. The trick, I think, is to consider it briefly yet determinedly. To quickly reach my conclusions and get it over and done with. Like a lightning strike as opposed to a full day’s drizzle. 


    How long have I got till the start of my 1000? How far am I from selling my worldly goods and relaxing in somebody else’s property at my own expense? The fact is I don’t know, none of us really knows. The period in my life when I leapt out of bed and went for a jog seems like a snap of the fingers ago, but it’s quite a number of years, at the very least a couple of decades. See, I can’t even remember that. Back then, running shoes ran, unlike now when they act as comfort blankets for diabetic feet. All of a sudden it’s not Tally Ho!, it’s more, ‘make sure I’ve taken the 75mg Aspirin and hope I don’t get cramp putting my socks on’. How the hell has it come to this? Where did the time go?

 

    The median cost of our new Home, ballpark figure, is £100,000 for our 1000 days. If we want to flounder in a particularly comfy leather recliner overlooking the Solent, we might need considerably more, at least double that figure. A milking stool overlooking a power station in Cumbria (which is where I’m likely heading) will hopefully cost considerably less. With a bit of luck my frugal choice of location and chair will allow me to enjoy king prawns every now and then instead of mass-produced sausage.


    Anyway, let’s base it on a hundred grand. Incidentally, have you noticed how casually the word ‘Grand’ is chucked around with gay abandon these days? In particular by large-breasted property experts referring to terraced slums up for auction in the ghostly shadows of northern satanic mills. Like some towns around where we live for example, though ours is not one of them, ours is leafy green (but getting bloated with new stuff, like houses and people). We’ve got a very good assortment of independent shops supplying a comforting range of medication and orthopaedic accoutrements.


    (By the way, when discussing 1000 day costs it’s best to use a median figure rather than an average because some poor unfortunates can linger well over a decade and skew the figures.)


    Anyhow, what it all boils down to is that (as of today) we need to save £100k over our working lives to fund our 1000 bumper days at the end. £100k over 45 working years (approx.) is £2,222.22 per year or £8 a day, £56 a week. For each of us.


    The country’s biggest problem is that we can’t trust people to save for their own demise. We’ve proved that because there’s a care black hole, which apparently is growing exponentially. The shortfall is simply because we’re surrounded by selfish bastards who refuse to save anything. They spend money on a variety of expensive, ‘in the moment’ things – telephones and televisions for example. Plus, cars and holidays. In short, people are actually enjoying themselves. Getting something positive out of their lives, having fun. Which frankly is bloody ridiculous. Goodness knows what granny would have thought as she saved a few pennies to buy a new flannel off the Betterware salesman.


    Credit is at the root of the problem. The drip. We can ‘afford’ anything right now thanks to the  benevolence of thousands of organisations willing to lend us dosh. Bollocks to next year, as long as I can eat my extra-large pizza watching Emmerdale on a sixty incher, I’ll be happy. At least I’ll be happy until Josie pops round with the latest i-thing and I’ll simply have to match that. It’ll be OK though. I’ll spread the payments over 36 months, o% interest, by which time I’ll be seventeen and should be earning a decent wage at Lidl.


    Of course, there are plenty who don’t (or can’t) work who are unable to save, so they have be looked after from the public purse. My purse. The current proposal is to pop a quid or two on National Insurance to cover ‘contingencies’. Well, it might work, as long as all this extra dosh doesn’t go on refurbishing the House of Commons bogs.

 

    But it’s not quite as simple as that. In addition to saving for the 1000, we need to fund the fun-filled years between retirement from work and the beginning of our retirement from life. We need reserves for golf, holidays, food, bingo, motor cars, vitamins etc. etc. Yes, they all need to be paid for, or some of them at least. The pension lump sum might help. Unless you’ve used that to pay off the second mortgage you took out to pay for your offspring’s university education. Or to pay off your own mortgage so you can downsize. At which point you can, mercifully, order your offspring to piss off as there won’t be room for everbody in the new bungalow. And no, we’re not putting a dormer on. Ugly bloody things.


    We’ve probably looked forward to retirement, the day we can hang up our stethoscope or hammer. As we sail off into the gloom we have our retirement pot (hopefully) but it’s under constant pressure. One difficulty is that in our twilight years things decline physically. Golf courses become longer and clubs heavier so we either bulk up or buy an electric trolley. Either way there’s a cost. In our dotage we need less food (but of better quality). The amount we now spend on a couple of decent steaks used to fund half a trolley-load of budget stuff which would last a fortnight. Its rather a diet/cash dichotomy actually. All the processed crap we’ve ingested over the years has saved us a fortune, allowing us to maintain a relatively new motor car, but the chemicals in the ultra-processed pseudo-food has shortened our lifespan. Perhaps this nutritional mantra, dished up by a canny establishment, is a way to kill us more efficiently enabling us to lessen the ‘longevity burden’ on our various Arcadias. Blimey, what a thought.


    As we progress down the avenue of age we have a job hearing the bingo caller and if we do manage to tune our hearing aids to the correct frequency we have the devil’s own job keeping up with the onslaught of numbers. This is bad for the self-esteem and mental health. Consequently, an innocent hour or two in the company of ‘two fat ladies’ inadvertently leads to a visit to a psychotherapist to ‘re-centre’. Another drain on the resources. (Can I say two fat ladies these days? Tough, I have.) By the time we can afford that smart little sports car we’ve always dreamed of, we can’t get in it! Besides we probably need to spend the money allocted to the car on a new shed to store all the vitamins and potions required to keep us running (or shuffling) smoothly.

   

   The challenges of our winter years lie ahead like a bombed-out runway, and it’s daunting indeed.  

    Bugger it. I’ll think about it tomorrow. Or somebody else can.