Stella and I were listening to the conversation between two couples while at dinner on the train last night.
The younger couple were conventionally married and in their fifties, the couple opposite were a mother and daughter , the daughter must have been late sixties, the mother clearly over ninety.
The conversation turned to staying healthy and each person recounted their dietary and fitness regime, till it came to the elderly mother. She told anyone listening (e.g. all of us – avidly), that she spent time in exercise classes but sitting rather than lying down, as she had difficulty getting up.
Her daughter, half in just reproved her , commenting
” mother you’re deluding yourself, you spend more time in hospital than not!”
The elderly mother fixed her daughter and each of us with a piercing eye and replied
“That is because I am busy making sure I stay alive”
Like a lot of elderly people – especially women – she was clearly doing her best to make her final years fulfilling. She had been on the Flying Scotsman since 6.15am and she would leave it at nearly 11pm. It was – she told us – probably at the B end of her bucket list – goodness only knows what her life story was!
Do not go gently…
I hear a lot of talk about U-shape retirements, where spending needs start at the top of the U , plummet as people plummet into torpor and then return as they are carted off into nursing homes.
Those who like to convert theory into financial products might like to think about what a limiting perception of old age this is.
I didn’t speak to any of the people on that table about finances, but it was clear that the younger couple (in their sixties) were in awe, as were Stella and I.
But as we did our last leg home on the tube and as I type from my boat this morning, I realise that we really have no idea what it is like to fight back death.
My favourite song at the moment, is Nick Cave’s “Push the sky away”, which is about not giving in.
I know many people who are not giving in, people who are finding the means to stay strong through their eighties and nineties.
My job is about making sure that whatever their life expectancy, social status, gender or expectations, people who want to life, have self-sufficiency in their later years.
That’s why I feel a pension should be a wage for life- and not something that you worry about leaving to your kids.
To conclude the story happily, the “young” daughter looked at her mother so proudly, that I almost cried!