When you retire, your pension will, if you are lucky, be about half what you earned when working. By rights, it should be at least twice as much – if not five times as much – as the average working income. Why? Because it is vastly more expensive to be old than it ever was to be young. And the older you get, the costlier life becomes.
To take a case in point, a couple of years ago, I was sitting in the cinema happily eating popcorn when suddenly a row of teeth – my own – fell into my lap. My dentist quoted £4,000 for a replacement row. The stark choice before me was to pay up or become a toothless old hag.
My ex-husband, whose only income is his old age pension of about £150 a week, has somehow to find several thousand for titanium implants, the only solution to his increasingly gap-toothed appearance.
Other friends, horrified by the cost of dental treatment for old people in the UK, go to Budapest. It is advertised as being up to sixty per cent cheaper than in the UK, but you have to get there and stay for a week, and the cost can run into thousands.
The state throws us oldies a few age-related concessions – the winter fuel allowance, free prescriptions (in some cases) and free bus travel. But, when it comes to the private sector, there are enormous costs facing old people that do not affect youngsters.
Hearing aids, for instance, which, eventually, most old people will need, can cost anything up to £5,000 a pair. The invisible Lyric in-ear aids are £300 a month or £3,600 a year; almost half the maximum state pension of £160 a week. Specialist glasses for old people with eye conditions can be £500 or more, and you always need more than one pair. A private hip replacement can cost up to £16,000.
Then we oldsters are always being bombarded to have private health checks, at a cost of £300 to £700 ‘for complete peace of mind’. I don’t fall for these, as I already have peace of mind, thanks very much, but I’m sure plenty of the impecunious worried well do sign up for them.
Should you need a stairlift, these cost, on average, £3,500 and they mostly come in a nasty beige colour, which does not please the stylish. One friend, the former fashion journalist Felicity Green, hated hers so much that she customised it with zebra-print fabric, and thereby invalidated the insurance on it.
Which brings us on to insurance. All premiums shoot up, the older you get. Private medical insurance – at £500 a year for a thirty-year-old – could be as much as £5,000 a year for a seventy-year-old. Travel insurance that costs £30 for a young person may be over £300 for an oldie – for identical cover. Often it’s not even optional, as many tour companies won’t accept an elderly traveller without it.
And then, unless you want to look horribly old and decrepit, which most people these days don’t, you have to spend a fortune on cosmetic and beauty treatments – not to mention actual surgery – to maintain a youthful, or at least acceptably aesthetic, appearance.
Every elderly Hollywood star, male and female, who looks suspiciously youthful, has had extensive cosmetic surgery, plus a host of non-surgical treatments. And now these are becoming essential for ordinary people like myself.
We also want to look polished and groomed – not tired, old has-beens. I am sometimes paid the compliment of being told I look far younger than my years – 73, if you must know. But, if this is true, it is down to an increasing barrage of beauty treatments, none of which I needed when I was younger. These days, I daren’t even tot up how much I spend per month on various cosmetic procedures, and every single one is an absolute necessity.
First there is hair. I now have the option of being an old lady with frizzy, white hair or spending hundreds of pounds each month on colour, cut and a Brazilian blow dry, to give a semblance of the thick, shiny hair of youth. Then eyebrows need constant attention as, with age, hairs grow long and all over the place. The only answer here is an eyebrow tattoo, followed by threading, waxing and dyeing, all of which are expensive, time-consuming and painful. But, once again, the results are worth it. I also go to my local cosmetic surgeon for prescription face cream, at £60 a go. It’s a tiny tube, too.
Some years ago, I had a facelift (£12,000) and, God, what a difference that made. I have also tried fillers and Botox, at several hundred pounds a time, but these didn’t seem to work for me. The news that Superdrug is offering Botox for only £99 won't lure me.
Add in manicures and pedicures every three weeks, regular visits to the tanning salon and teeth whitening – the syringes cost £250 for a pack of three – and it soon becomes clear that keeping up appearances is a full-time job, as well as a vast expense.
And don’t think that men escape. Older men are increasingly booking into cosmetic clinics for eyebag removal and to regain the chiselled chin of their youth; chin implants, liposuction, nose jobs, hair transplants and double chin removal are all becoming common for male seniors.
Before long, these treatments, none of which is cheap, will be mandatory for any older man who retains an ounce of self-respect. We old folk are becoming so expensive to keep on the road – and so image-conscious – that someone should start a charity for the preservation of living ancient monuments.