Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.
Posted: July 23rd, 2011 | Author: admin | Filed under: About retirement - Howard Croft | No Comments »
After recent reports that GPs are to be urged routinely to administer breath tests to those over sixty five in an attempt to enforce a new, lower limit of alcohol consumption on this patient group, and to run blood tests to detect abuse of illegal substances, I am happy to say that there has been more cheerful reading in the medical press. On three fronts, in fact.
Firstly, the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology has published research reporting that the chemical compound resveratrol, a substance produced during exercise that protects the body from the deadly consequences of a sedentary life style, occurs naturally in red wine. This means that those of us who have not done so already can cancel our gym memberships and go for the burn while relaxing in front of the telly. The editor of the journal, Dr Gerald Weissmann, is quoted as saying “There are overwhelming data showing that the human body needs physical activity, but for some of us getting that activity isn’t easy. Resveratrol may not be a substitute for exercise, but it could slow deterioration until someone can get moving again.” Good enough for me, Dr Weissmann, and thank you for letting us know.
The plan then is this: switch to red exclusively, then go for a sensible jog of an evening while watching Channel Four News, and at the weekend do a half marathon. You’ll be in cracking shape in no time. Don’t let the fact that the original research was conducted in Strasbourg put you off – they do some pretty nifty science over there in France.
Secondly, clinical scientists in this country have discovered that high salt intake is not bad for you. Indeed, lowering your consumption can be very bad for you, even fatal, causing, among other problems, your kidneys to explode (this is not the precise medical term, which is in Latin). So now it appears that the sinister gangs of council employees who tour fish and chip shops, most recently in Grimsby of all places, confiscating salt shakers have, far from protecting their constituents from hypertension as they in their conceit believed, been posing a serious risk to life.Will they repent?
Thirdly, it has been announced that the received advice from NHS Direct and others that we all drink eight pints of water a day (coffee doesn’t count) is not only unhelpful nonsense but dangerous. Just this week the press reported that Nigella Lawson has been warned by her doctor about her self-confessed aquaholic life style – there was a photograph of her clutching several bottles of the stuff. Shall we now see an end to the spectacle of sanctimonious twits toting bottles of water wherever they go?
Must go – I’m planning to do a hundred press-ups before dinner.
Posted: July 14th, 2011 | Author: admin | Filed under: About retirement - Howard Croft | Comments Off
I am interested in education: I was once a schoolboy, I was briefly a teacher, and I supervised, perhaps not entirely helpfully, the education of my children. I have followed press reports over the last decade or so of Government efforts to make access to university education “fairer”. Although the proposals, coming no doubt from privately educated Oxbridge graduates whose hearts are in the right place, and signed off by ministers whose thinking seems to be connected to reality only where it touches, have ranged largely from the absurdly impractical to border-line lunatic, and they have failed.
The latest wheeze is to compel the universities, which are suspected of having secret lists of “A” Level subjects that they discount when offering places, to come clean. I think they should come clean, and I cannot think of a single good reason why these lists should be secret. However, the Department of Education has produced an interesting and damning argument. Middle class children, they say, have intelligent, educated parents who have the wit to deduce what these dodgy subjects may be, whereas “disadvantaged” children, blithely unaware and without shrewd parental guidance, come to grief. This line of reasoning overlooks the fact that all children trudge into school every day where they mix with scores of middle class, intelligent and educated adults who are paid to look after them educationally – their teachers. I myself had poorly educated parents with little insight into or knowledge of the world of education, but my teachers filled the gap.
Ah but, they say, teachers are guiding children towards the soft subjects because good grades in these are easier to come by and serve to boost schools’ scores based on public examination results. This appears to be a widely accepted as an unintended consequence of school league tables. But where does professionalism come in? Would we accept a situation in which surgeons confronted by patients with dicky prostates packed them off to have their tonsils whipped out because that would improve their ratings? I don’t think so.
I was ranting about this to a friend over a bottle of wine when I remembered an incident from my own schooldays in the early sixties. There was at that time a national school quiz, broadcast on the wireless, called Top of the Form, a sort of University Challenge for secondary schools. Teams of four would be entered representing the age range of the school – a 12 year old, one of fourteen, another of sixteen, and a sixth former. The competing teams did not meet in a studio; they assembled in their own schools but were audio-linked so they could hear each other, as could their supporters gathered in the school halls, at that time cutting edge technology.
Anyway, in the final my school (Hull Grammar School) competed against a bunch of selling platers from Newcastle, and our youngest representative, called Brennan, was asked to name the drummer in a group called The Beatles. This he could not do, and a howl of disbelief went up in both Hull and Newcastle, the Newcastle lot no doubt smelling blood. Although I was a sixth-former I happened to know this boy because his older brother, also called Brennan, was a contemporary of mine. He was a clever little devil with exclusively intellectual interests, and rather serious – an expert on heraldry, I remember – and he was devastated to have let the school down, as he thought, by not knowing what every schoolboy clearly knew. He was found, after the recording finished, weeping in the cloakroom. A few days after the programme was aired he received a letter from a retired Colonel congratulating him on not knowing Ringo Starr’s name, enclosing a postal order for £5 as a reward. There was a man who knew a thing or two about what’s worth knowing.
Hull Grammar School won, by the way.
Posted: July 13th, 2011 | Author: admin | Filed under: Designing for the Future Competition - University of Brighton, Press coverage | Comments Off
I have just written a guest blog about our “Designing for the Future” competiton for the International Longevity Centre. The ILC is a think-tank focussing on longevity, ageing and population change. Baroness Greengross is the ILC’s Chief Executive.
To read the blog, visit:
Posted: July 13th, 2011 | Author: admin | Filed under: Designing for the Future Competition - University of Brighton, Press coverage | No Comments »
Last night I was in Brighton showcasing some of the work from our “Designing for the Future” Competition at the international Science of Ageing Conference organised by BSRA (British Society for Research on Ageing).
If the assembled scientists were surprised to be infiltrated by product designers, they did not show it and in fact there was a good deal of interest in what we were doing.
What we are hoping to see is a growing recognition amongst medics and scientists that often it is good design which makes their discoveries and innovations more usable and wearable by the people they are aiming to help.
Posted: July 6th, 2011 | Author: admin | Filed under: Designing for the Future Competition - University of Brighton, Inclusive design | No Comments »
We were thrilled to be invited to showcase our “Designing for the Future” University of Brighton student competition at this year’s Mobility Roadshow.
The Design Zone, run in association with the Royal College of Art/Helen Hamlyn Centre, featured examples of innovative and new designs in independent living.
Curators Denise Stephens of Enabled by Design and Hayley Smith of Such+Such Designs are both enthusiastic champions of good, inclusive design.
Here’s some pics of our Competition posters in action, together with the Innovation Showcase and Cool Wall. We were really pleased to see that manyof our products passed the cool test including the Trabasack, Shower Sandal, Doublehandled Mug and OXO Good Grips peeler!
Many thanks to Denise and Hayley for inviting us to be part of this innovative and important addition to the Mobility Roadshow.
Posted: July 4th, 2011 | Author: admin | Filed under: Care | 1 Comment »
Today sees the publication of the much anticipated Dilnot Commission report on the funding of adult social care. Finding that the current system is confusing, unfair and unsustainable, Dilnot makes a number of recommendations.
The key proposal of the report is the recommendation to share the cost of care in later life between us and the State. We will pay for our own care until we reach a “cap” after which the State will pick up the bill. This cap will be between £25,000 and £50,000 with Dilnot favouring £35,000.
So much we have already gleaned from the press pre-launch but the surprise today is that Dilnot is also suggesting that the means tested threshold for residential care rise from £23,500 to £100,000. Good news for homeowners.
Whilst none of us relish the idea of future big bills, these proposals put an end to the possibility of losing all our savings and assets to pay for care. Having a cap means that we know the potential extent of our liability and can put in place plans to meet the cost.
So far so good. But however important and urgent these reforms, there is one crucial stumbling block – money. Today the care and age spokespeople are full of support for the proposals but the mutterings on the political blogs are less positive. Although the government seems to think Dilnot’s proposals are good ideas, the cost of £1.7bn a year is politically troubling, particularly if taxes will need to be raised for its implementation.
And if the State is struggling with the cost, we too will need to think hard how to save a not inconsiderable £35,000 each to pay for our care. Dilnot anticipates that the reforms will encourage the financial services industry to develop appropriate products but today that industry seems to be uncustomarily quiet. In a letter to The Times on Friday, Iain Carpenter, Emeritus Professor (Human Ageing) at University of Kent sounded a warning bell saying: “The recommendations [of the Dilnot report] designed to encourage an insurance market to allow people to protect themselves against the cost of long-term car, are bound to fail. Insurers will continue to give this market a wide berth until somebody has the courage to require care providers to record reliable standardised information on the older person’s physical, mental and social care status without fear or favour…to allow insurers to make equitable decisions on eligibility for care and repayment rates”.
And of course Dilnot did not even begin to address how to ensure quality of care.
So, much to think about. But however difficult, we cannot afford to delay.
Posted: July 3rd, 2011 | Author: admin | Filed under: About retirement - Howard Croft | No Comments »
I had to drive down to Brighton this week for the College of Psychiatrists’ annual meeting, and when the word got out I was ruthlessly manipulated into collecting from Hull two old ladies, my sister and my cousin, and delivering them to Horsham for a visit with yet another cousin. As I loaded their luggage into the car I noticed them peering eagerly into the boot. I think they were hoping to see a crate of Mackeson Stout.
I estimated that the journey down should take five hours, but realistically, having factored in lunch and bladder stops, I allowed for six hours. I was spot on. We stopped for an early lunch at The George in Stamford, arriving at 11.30. It is a splendid place in many ways, but I had forgotten their inflexibility. We asked for coffee and sandwiches, but this was not possible before noon. We were offered coffee and Danish pastries. When I protested we were told we could have a bacon sandwich. So, I said, we can have a sandwich provided it’s got bacon in it? Yes, because that comes from a different kitchen. I considered the possibility of checking into a room and ordering room service sandwiches, which we could eat sitting on the bed, but of course you can’t get a room key before 2pm. It’s a classic case of a business that has become so focused on its processes that it has lost sight of why it is there – in this case providing me with things to eat. The bacon was good.
The meeting in Brighton went well and I used the opportunity to tackle a psychiatrist about the recent proposal, from I think the BMA, that OAPs should be restricted to half a pint of beer or equivalent a day, and that GPs should routinely breathalyse all patients over sixty-five. I was hoping for a row, but instead he said “A gin and tonic, perhaps two, before dinner and five or six glasses of wine with it and a port to round it off. Then a scotch before turning in. That sounds about right.” Very slippery of him, I thought, to avoid a row in this way, but wise nevertheless in his prescription. Do they really imagine that we are going to allow our doctors to administer breath tests, or that GPs will even consider such intrusion? And if we do, and they do, what happens if we fail – stop our medication, or feed us Antabuse under supervision?
Anyway, on the journey home (via Hull of course) lunch was again an issue and after the frustration at the posh hotel I had a fancy for a visit to a Little Chef whose flexibility is a by-word. You should try their All Day Breakfast. And now that the telly chef, Henry Blofeld, is advising them their standards have risen to new heights of excellence. Here is a business that has not forgotten why it is there. If you go to their website you will find an AA-style route-planner which incorporates on its maps the location of every Little Chef. Very enterprising. But it was not to be – we stopped at a pub that looked promising where, although it was dreary inside, I was served the best omelette outside my own kitchen.
An interesting week, but I do wish I had been a fly on the wall in Horsham when the ladies were revisiting their childhood. I couldn’t help noticing that one of them clambered into the car clutching a bottle of brandy in a brown bag (I peeked). Maybe the breath test is not such a bad idea after all.