You are here: Home > 2014 - Blog   Go Back

2014 - Blog

You might be wondering why a giant hippopotamus is floating in the River Thames.

Designed by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, the wooden sculpture is part of the Totally Thames Festival.

The senior moment
by MT Editor Andrew Young
The dementia debate
©Mature Times November 2014

THE NEWS on the dementia research front looks promising, if not down right encouraging. Scientists are getting closer to earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer's and other progressive neurodegenerative diseases. The widespread growth of this condition has been described as a 'plague', suggesting that lifestyle and food additives etc, are exacerbating the symptoms and onset of the illness. It is now estimated that one million Brits - 40 million people worldwide – suffer some form of mental impairment ranging from memory loss and disorientation, to full blown dementia. Whatever the cause, it is becoming apparent that these figures can only increase as modern medicine and lifestyle changes are making us live longer. But the latest measure in the fight against dementia has split opinion. GPs are now to be paid £55 by the Government for each early diagnosis they make, with some who see the patient through to effective after care, being offered £200. We cannot condemn the Government for highlighting the benefits of early diagnosis. But does the medical professional really need an incentive to administer proper care in the community? One critic recently suggested a return to the days of the 'asylum', where individuals suffering the natural progression of debilitation through advanced age, or even the disorientation brought on by a simple urinary infection, may be 'sentenced' to an unnecessary life of forced institutionalism.

Pension pot-ty
Those approaching 55 and many already over that milestone are counting down the days (sadly not me -1 am far too young!!) until the new pension laws come in allowing us to dip into the pot 'like a bank account', enjoy 25 per cent tax relief and leave the untouched cash in the fund to continue to grow. I anticipate the value, desirability and pure good sense of investing in classic cars and property abroad can only increase as the magic day draws nearer. Never before, have those with a pension had the freedom to use or re-invest a portion or all of their fund as they see fit. The ability to remove our entire holding without the previously-required annuity, opens up the retirement dream for many. We can pay off the mortgage, buy that elusive car we have always hankered after, but could never afford, or move lock, stock and barrel to warmer climes. I am not sure the financial houses are quite ready to handle the tsunami of cash that will drain from their coffers, but do feel there needs to be a sensible 'means/future proof system in place to prevent what can only mean financial hardship for many. Love them or loathe them, pension providers have previously worked out the plan to see those who wisely invested with an adequate private income to see them to the end of their days. I do wonder how many may make the leap and drain their fund on a 'live for now' basis only to be left with only a state pension when the cash runs out.

Pension trap
....and while we're on the subject, isn't it still a scandal in this day and age that some pensioners remain banned from a full State pension if they move abroad? Anne Puckbridge is 90 and faithfully served her country as a WREN in World War II. She emigrated to Canada ten years ago to be closer to her family and now wants to return to her native Gloucestershire, but can't afford to because her state pension was frozen at the 2001 rate - just £75.50 a week. Since then it's gone up to £110.15 but Anne is not entitled to the difference because she has been living in Calgary. Anne has now exhausted all her savings and is relying on her family for financial support and finds herself unable to socialise with neighbours because she can't afford it. It would have been different if she had lived in France, Spain or the US as they have bilateral pension agreements with the UK. But she remains one of the 560,000 pensioners living abroad in other countries who are facing an additional freeze to whatever the weather throws at them.

Cartoon from Mature Times 2014