In the past year, I have found myself dealing more and more with the practical challenges faced by those growing old. You read about some of these issues when they make headlines. But what about the smaller day-to-day realities? What can be done to help?
This article summarizes 5 real challenges over recent months using case studies. They are not vast sums and for simplicity and privacy, I refer to “Bill” as the pensioner affected. Bill does not have a computer or access to the internet. His children live far from home.
- Why is everything online?
Car Insurance: For years, Bill has accepted the renewal quote from his existing insurance company and hoped it was a good deal. By taking the time to go through an online quote from a price comparison website, he saved over £300. All it took was a couple of hours of time to help him out and he is still able to communicate by post and telephone, without needing to set up an online account.
Ordering Oil: Bill is part of a village oil club managed through an oil club website. He calls HCV to enter his order and the supplier calls Bill direct for payment. Recently, a new supplier did not contact Bill so there was no delivery. So the order was re-entered for the next delivery date. But as his tank was so low, Bill panicked and called the supplier direct to check when they were coming. Unfortunately, the supplier took this as an opportunity to charge nearly double the oil club’s rate. Not wishing to make a fuss, as he was more concerned about his tank going empty, Bill accepted the supplier’s quote. But he contacted HCV as he was confused by the difference in price. HCV took up the case with the oil club to insist that the supplier honored its contractual obligations and refund the difference of £195 to Bill.
Telecoms: Bill received a call from a telecom salesman promising cheaper deals than BT. After lengthy discussion, Bill relented and agreed to switch to the new telecom company. When he received the paperwork, it referred him to look at the terms and conditions on the website. Bill realised after the sales call that he had not asked about 0845 charges, which he uses regularly to check his bank statement. When he contacted the telecom company to ask for his price plan, he was told it was not possible and to refer to the website. HCV followed up and found this information was not readily available. So a formal request was made for written terms, conditions and price plan to be posted to Bill within the 14 day cooling off period. Once Bill understood the costs of 0845 numbers on the new plan, he decided to remain with BT.
- Getting work done to the house
It is not always possible to obtain a fixed quote for work in advance. Ideally, Bill would like to trust they will do a good job and charge him fairly. A month after the job is completed (and memories have faced), the invoice arrives. The amount due is much higher than expected because of the number of hours charged. HCV had kept a note of the times that the builders came and went, and asked them to explain the difference. After a couple of days, the builders conceded that the client’s timesheet was correct and the invoice was reduced by £500.
- Security at home
In rural communities, it is not unusual to keep front doors unlocked for neighbours to pop in. During a busy weekend, a gentleman claiming to be a tourist looking for the local B&B was found coming down the stairs. The prowler was reported to the police but it was only that evening that Bill found some valuables had been stolen. Aside from the loss of family heirlooms, a more immediate problem was the feeling of insecurity in his own home. Having someone to visit on a regular basis helps alleviate some of these nerves, as well as remind him to keep the doors locked, even when at home.
Determining whether someone has mental capacity is the remit of mental health practitioners and a complex area of law, significantly updated by the Mental Health Act 2005. Whilst Dementia may never happen, Bill can still make plans in case it does, by drawing up Lasting Powers of Attorney. There are two types and HCV is helping Bill in discussion with younger family members about who could look after his affairs if he is no longer able to, and how to go about it.
- Who will remember my story?
One thing about Bill is that he can remember several decades’ worth of stories and history! The question is, does his family know and will they remember? There are some excellent resources available and nowadays, some families are commissioning people to write their parent’s life stories. They view it as an investment to preserve the real family legacy.
The Conclusion from all this?
We all work hard with the hope we shall enjoy our retirement to the full. However, there are several drawbacks of getting old. With career and other commitments at the fore, families do not necessarily live close-by to deal with the practical implications of ageing loved ones. The sums involved may not be large and these examples may seem trivial. However, aside from the money, the effect on a person’s confidence and well-being can be a concern and there is help at hand. Just be aware.