Susan Dalgety: How old folk are going to bleed Scotland dry

Growing old sucks. A good friend of mine, who is 90, has a stock answer when anyone asks her how she is. 'I'm alive,' she smiles wistfully.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 20th February 2018, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 20th February 2018, 9:12 am
Old age may have its advantages but the downside weighs more heavily on Susan Dalgety (Picture: Getty)
Old age may have its advantages but the downside weighs more heavily on Susan Dalgety (Picture: Getty)

After a major stroke last year, which left her paralysed down her left side and forced to wear granny nappies at night, her assertion that she is indeed, alive, has taken on a melancholy tone.

“I hate wearing nappies,” she growls, as she struggles to sip her tea with her one good hand. “It is ­better than wetting the bed,” I respond, while silently praying that I never end up in the same position.

I am fast approaching full ­pensioner status, even though, as a Waspi woman, the day I can collect my state pension seems to get further away every time I click on the HMRC website.

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I groan, involuntarily, every time I get up from the couch. I turn the ­television up so loud my upstairs neighbour complains. My blood ­pressure is too high, my digestive ­system is too sluggish, and I spend a fortune covering up my grey hair.

I go to bed at nine o’clock and wake at five o’clock. I don’t suffer fools, gladly or otherwise, and I rarely drink until I am drunk, because I cannot face the three-day hangover.

Worst of all, old friends and former workmates are dying. In the past three months alone, four of my ­contemporaries have died. Two of them, Ian Burrell and Bob Thomson, were former Evening News staffers. Both first-class reporters. Both lovely men. Both now gone.

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Of course, old age doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend your days – and evenings – watching Escape to the Country.

The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will be 69 on his birthday, and the leader of the free world, Donald J Trump will be 72 in June. Our dear Queen, at 91, is still working harder than most millennials ever will.

Growing old does have some advantages. Most of us get wiser with age, though there are some notable exceptions, both Corbyn and Trump spring to mind. You get to wear comfortable shoes and trousers with elastic waists. And you can tell people exactly what you think, loudly, about anything, from Brexit (bad) to ­discount supermarkets (good).

And being a granny is much better fun than being a parent.

But no matter how much I enjoy watching Paw Patrol on a YouTube loop with my granddaughters, growing old still sucks.

It is not great for our national health either. There is set to be an explosion of oldies in Scotland with the number of people aged 65 and over predicted to jump 28 per cent to 1.36 million by 2039.

And the over-75s will soar from 430,000 to about 800,000 people. That is a helluva lot of granny nappies.

At the same time, the size of the working population – the people whose taxes will pay for essential ­public services such as the NHS, social care and pensions – will practically stand still.

In simple economic terms that even I understand, us old folk are going to bleed the country dry before we die.

Later this week, I am heading to the Athletic Arms, an Edinburgh institution since 1897, to celebrate the 70th birthday of a dear friend.

We will have great fun reminiscing about our golden years – 1997 was a particularly fine one – while swaying gently to our Beatles and our Stones and comparing our growing list of ailments.

We will drink far too much red wine and whisky, probably shed a tear or two, and definitely have a hangover until the following Tuesday.

I just hope that no one notices that the pub got its nickname – the Diggers – because it used to be the haunt of local gravediggers.

After all, we are all still alive, just.