A collection of short stories and journalistic commentaries depicting my simple life
and how I fit in with the modern day universe of our times

AGED CONCERN



I learned recently that despite the best efforts of Jude Law, there are now more old age pensioners in Britain than children under the age of 16.

Many people have many theories on why this is happening: better medical care, better crumple zones in your car, less plague, fewer man-eating tigers, the invention of the high-visibility jacket and, of course, the increasingly zealous Health and Safety Executive with its bold remit that no one should ever die.

There is, however, another, rather more serious reason for the general wrinkling of the general public that no one is talking about. It’s this. These days, few people have the time or the money to rear a child because they spend all their free time and all their spare cash buying hearing aids and mashing food for the much loved, toothless old crones that used to be their parents.

My mother made it very plain that at the first sign of incontinence my sisters and I were to wheel her over Beachy Head. Other mums — and dads, for that matter — are less considerate, and continue to sit about in their expensive inconti-panties, dribbling and insisting that the Antiques Roadshow is played at full volume, for probably 20 or 30 years longer than they really ought to.

I should imagine it’s jolly hard to make a baby with your husband if you spent the first half of the evening looking for your mum’s teeth and the second half trying to pluck them from the puddle of her wee.

And what for? At least, with a child, you are able to see the fruits of your labours grow into adulthood and become self-dependent. You lavish all that care and cash on a parent and all that happens is they get worse and worse until one day, when they are nothing but a bag of skin and methane, they keel over and you have to fork out for a funeral.

It’s also a huge problem for the state because in Britain there are now more than 2.7m people over 80, and all of them have to be kept alive and fed using taxes from a working population that is forever shrinking.

However, there is a business opportunity here. Some people say that, right now, property is a good investment. Others say it is zinc or farmland. But they’re all wrong. The absolute best, most watertight investment in this day and age has got to be an old people’s home.

You need only look at the numbers to see this makes sound commercial sense. Because now that there are more people over 65 than there are under 16, it stands to reason that there should now be more care homes for the elderly than there are schools. And I bet there aren’t. Not by a long way.

Demand, then, is bound to be strong, and what’s more, running an old people’s home must surely be the easiest thing in the world. It’s not like running a school, where you have to have teachers and all your guests are either lippy or armed with a knife, or both. And it’s not like running a hotel, where people want food at all hours of the day, clean bedding and hot and cold running satellite television.

All you really need in an old people’s home is a pack of cards, a telly with big speakers, some Gracie Fields records and a bit of cabbage for the old dears to eat. They won’t mind. They like cabbage. They think it’s exotic.

The other great thing about old people is they don’t to complain. If you accidentally forget to change their nappies for a few weeks, they will tell you cheerfully that things were much worse during the blitz. And you needn’t worry about their families getting angry, because the selfish bastards usually only ever come round at Christmas. And when they do turn up, they’re usually too busy making up excuses for leaving to notice the sheets are a bit crusty.

It’s strange, but if you run a farm, the government will send inspectors round every five minutes to ensure your goats have Bang & Olufsen stereos and the like. Indeed, the courts are always jammed up with people who’ve been nasty to a horse. But when did you last read about someone being cruel to a pensioner? It never happens. So you can feel free to turn the central heating off to save a bit of cash every now and then.

The only trouble is that you need to get in on the act quickly because soon, I suspect, it’s going to be a lot more difficult to get away with a cabbage-only diet and a handful of wipe-down inconti-wingbacks.

Today’s old people grew up before global warming. They lived up a chimney until they were eight, they had one bath, made from tin, in the whole street and they spent most of their early lives fighting the Hun. They still think nylon is a luxury good and chocolate is only for special occasions. So they don’t mind a bit of discomfort. And, mostly, they have manners and still respect authority.

It’ll be a very different story 20 years from now. Think about it. Last week there were photos of Mick Jagger in the newspaper, and it struck me that soon, those from his generation are going to be populating the nation’s old people’s homes. Which means many changes will be necessary.

They’re going to want to zoom about on wheelchairs, in ripped pyjamas, listening to Anarchy in the UK. And you can forget beetle drives. They will want spitting competitions, and regular fights will break out often with those who were new romantics. It’ll be a nightmare when Sid has smashed up Ethel’s collection of Spandau Ballet hits and you can’t reason with him because he’s been in the medicine cupboard again and used up everyone’s crystal meth.

What’s more, many of your inmates will be from other cultures, in which their families will be popping round on an hourly basis and they’ll want the very best for their parents. Not a beetroot once a week and a Monopoly set with Park Lane missing.

And then, before you know it, you’ll be running a home full of people wee-ing while they Wii, demanding Call of Duty 4 on PlayStation 3 and complaining noisily every time the internet connection goes down. This, then, is the real problem we’re facing today. Not how many old people there are. But what they are going to be like and how will we ever cope?


Some witty quotes from the famous about getting old

I’m 42 around the chest, 52 around the waist, 92 around the golf course and a nuisance around the house...

The years that a woman subtracts from her age are not lost. They are added to the ages of other women...

I can lie convincingly about my age because at my age, I can’t always remember what it is...

A woman, is how old she looks at breakfast...

Middle age is when you’re sitting at home on a Saturday night and the telephone rings and you hope it isn’t for you...

I knew I was getting old, when the Pope started looking young...

I’ve started saying things like “whoopsadaisy” and when I take a first sip of tea, “ooh that’s hit the spot”...

I knew I was getting old when I saw a young lady with her midriff showing and thought “Ooh you must be cold”...

I used to think I’d like less grey hair, now I’m thinking I’d like a bit more of it...

I’m so old that when I ask for three minute egg, they ask for the money up front...

And finally...

When I wake up in the morning and nothing hurts. I know I must be dead...




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