Over Christmas and New Year, families gather, take stock and compare notes. One family’s grandfather died after just retiring, but an elderly aunt, who has never taken any exercise, is living well into her 90s and racking up enormous care bills. It is never more obvious that life expectancy, even allowing for the inequalities of class, is still a roll of the dice. The healthy die of the unexpected, while the unhealthy can live well beyond their expected span.
Figures confirm the reality. You could be among the one in four people who, after they reach 65, will spend very little or nothing on their care before they die. Alternatively, you could be among the one in 10 with some endemic ailment who will spend more than £100,000 and, on current rules, be forced to sell your house to pay for the care. In an ageing society, this is beginning to become a politically hot issue.
Nor have the consequences of age and infirmity much to do with virtue, “striving” or your due deserts. If you have been dealt the wrong genes – dementia, say, or some crippling disability – you will be hit however virtuously you have lived, and the care costs could be explosive and long lasting. This is one of the brute hazards of life.