We're just sorting out our wills and LPAs (Lasting Power of Attorney).
(Actually, the wills are done but there's been a glitch with the LPAs. I spent ages completing a veritable blizzard of forms, signing and getting them all witnessed, in the right order. I transferred the requisite fee electronically and sent all the paperwork off to the Office of the Public Guardian in two huge envelops. Where they lost it all! So now we either start again ot give up!)
Whatever, the whole thing was a sobering process, but it's set me pondering………..
We fret and sweat as we plan for our final thousand days. A lifetime spent preparing for the last bit that will see us ensconced in our retirement homes in faux-leather chairs watching daytime TV or doing jigsaws. Three years seems an optimistic estimate of the time we spend in our care home.
But just a moment; before we go any further, allow me to address a bugbear with which I am particularly exasperated, namely the phrase ‘Care Home.’ It may be accurate but it is an awful term, as is ‘Nursing Home.’ In fact, anything with ‘Home’ in it conjures up a depressing image. We’ll call it Arcadia from now on. Arcadia has various connotations - ‘idyllically pastoral,’ for example. See, that’s better. Albeit by definition it’s a touch spiritual, it implies peace and serenity - which is probably what we’re aiming for at the end of the day. Having said that, maybe we should focus on harem-scarem and barrelling into the next world in a fog of exhaust fumes. However we define it, Arcadia is better than ‘Home.’
One thousand days is an approximate figure of course; some of us linger longer, others perish promptly. Naturally, it’s health-dependent, but it’s more than that. It’s survival of the fittest (or survival of the least knackered) as we’re forced to fight for the TV remote or sprint for the last lunchtime sausage. Sprint? Wrong word, perhaps. But there’s a 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 at 30. All those years, half a lifetime indeed, spent dashing for the last cream cake 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 Arcadian life: bed to breakfast to television 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 an unsavoury but unavoidable part of my journey. The trick, I think, is to consider it briefly, yet determinedly. Quickly reach a conclusion and get it over and done with. Like a lightning strike as opposed to a full day’s drizzle.
Crucial questions: how long have I got till the start of my thousand? How far in the future is selling my worldly goods and relaxing in somebody else’s property at my own expense? The fact is I don’t know the answers; 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. 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 “I hope I don’t get cramp putting my socks on!’ How the hell has it come to this? Where did the time go?
I’ll work in £ / Day mode - please adjust for your own currency. The median cost of our new Home, ballpark figure, is £100,000 for our thousand days. If we want to flounder in a particularly comfy leather recliner overlooking an exclusive stretch of coastline, we might need considerably more - at least double that figure. A milking stool overlooking a power station in the industrial north of England (which is where I’m likely heading) will hopefully cost considerably less. With a bit of luck my frugal choice of location and budget chair will allow me to enjoy king prawns from time to time instead of mass-produced sausage.
Anyway, let’s base it on a hundred grand (one grand = one thousand). Incidentally, have you noticed how casually the word ‘grand’ is thrown around with gay abandon these days in relation to money, in the UK anyway? 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 close to where I used to live, for example, although our town wasn’t one of the grimmest. Ours was leafy green (but getting bloated with new stuff, like houses, cars and people). We had a very good assortment of independent shops supplying a comforting range of food, medication and orthopaedic accoutrements. As I write, I live on a boat so few normal rules apply. But I still have to consider my future.
(By the way, when discussing Arcadian 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 a hundred thousand pounds over our working lives to fund our 1000 bumper days at the end. £100k over an approximate 45 working years. That’s £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 like telephones and televisions. Incidentally, another relevant ‘tele’ is teleology, which is ‘the account of a given thing’s purpose.’ Applied to Arcadia, it would mean the medium by which we go from active independence to inactive isolation in our eternal wooden box.
Then we’ve got the cars and holiday conundrum. In short, people actually want to enjoy themselves. Get something positive out of their lives, have fun. Which frankly is bloody ridiculous and utterly selfish. Goodness knows what granny would have thought as she saved a few pennies to buy something from the man knocking on the door selling dishcloths.
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 cash. No need to bother about next year. As long as I can eat my extra-large pizza watching a soap opera on a sixty-inch TV, 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. But it’ll be OK. I’ll spread the payments over 36 months, by which time I’ll be seventeen and should be earning a decent wage in a budget German supermarket.
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, your purse. The current proposal in the UK is to pop a quid or two on National Insurance Tax to cover ‘contingencies.’ Well, it might work, as long as all this extra dosh doesn’t go on refurbishing the House of Commons lavatories. Laundering the seat of government, if you will.
But it’s not quite as simple as that. In addition to saving for our final thousand, we need to fund the fun-filled years between retirement from work and the beginning of our retirement from life. We need financial reserves for golf, holidays, food, bingo, motor cars, vitamins etc., etc. Yes, they all need to be paid for, or at least some of them. The pension lump sum might help, if you’ve got one coming. 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, tell your offspring to piss off as there won’t be room in the new bungalow. And no, we’re not putting a dormer on. Ugly damn 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. Also, 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 that 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.
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. 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 hearing-aid specialist and a psychotherapist for psychological ‘re-centering.’ More drain on the resources. (Not sure I can say Two Fat Ladies these days? Tough, I have. For those that don’t know, it’s the symbolic representation of the number 88. Which, coincidentally, is also the weight in kilos of your average bingo player.) Another conundrum - by the time we can afford that smart little sports car we’ve always dreamed of, we can’t get in it because we can’t bend down low enough! At least without the unseemly expulsion of various gases. Besides we probably need to spend the car money 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.