No fun in living an extra 20 years without a drink
They say that every time you smoke a cigarette you take 20 minutes off your life. Well, I've been doing some sums and worked out that I should have died last Tuesday. So every day from here on in is a bonus!
But just as I was getting that off my chest – if you'll pardon the expression – along came another worry. Those pints, G&Ts and teeny little dry sherries enjoyed before dinner may have been storing up problems too and any extra time allowed from above is likely to be ruined by poor health, early senility and general, all-round misery.
Instead of spending my twilight years trekking out across the moors with happy grandchildren and grinning like a buffoon from a pension plan advert, I'll be clogging up some hospital waiting room along with an army of other diseased old duffers.
That was the message delivered this week by South West health professionals who have predicted an alcohol "time bomb" amongst the elderly who, in short, appear to be drinking themselves to death. One in five older men and one in ten older woman are already suffering from the effects of too much booze and the figures are set to rise. About a third of pensioners with drink problems, for example, develop them later in life.
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We soon won't be able to move for sloshed old geriatrics kicking up a rumpus down at the day centre and causing hit and run mayhem on their mobility scooters.
The availability and cheapness of alcohol is blamed for much of the problem. Why this should affect the old more than the young I can't quite work out but it seems that supermarket prices and opening hours are tempting the Darby and Joan set more and more. No longer are they satisfied with the odd nip of Wincarnis so a typical shopping list these days seemingly reads: cat food, a copy of the People's Friend, corn plasters, a three litre flagon of own-brand vodka.
On a sadder note, other reasons cited for turning to the bottle include loneliness, pain, disability and depression.
A far simpler reason for the increasing problem amongst the elderly – and hinted at by the alcohol campaigners – is the decline of the honest, old fashioned pub. The sort of place where they know your name, some respect is shown, a forum for topical discussion is provided and there's a cosy chair next to the fire. Hours could be spent there nursing a single glass of ale, a sense of belonging far more important than getting blotto.
Such pubs still exist, of course, but they are getting thinner on the ground. Some have closed forever and others have been turned on the one hand into noisy dens where the average age appears to be 14 and Manchester United are playing on a big screen TV and on the other twee little eateries where the food is served on square plates and covered in something called "jus".
In neither will old Bert or old Florrie feel happy so instead they sit at home, their problems unshared and cheap plonk uncorked.
If such thoughts were at the forefront of the health scaremongering I would be right there with the expertsbut, of course, it's actually all about money. As one report had it: "The increased strain on the West's already overburdened health service."
But isn't there a lack of logic here? Aren't the topers really doing society a favour? Heavy drinkers, like heavy smokers, tend to have shorter lives. During that briefer span they will have been paying the same NI contributions as anyone else but have the decency to peg out early foregoing a pension. On top of that, think of all the extra tax they have paid. Mr Osborne would be even deeper in the mire without them.
Of course, when the early end does come there will be hefty medical costs but even vegan cyclists who have never lit a fag or sniffed a cork have to die some time and that's likely to be just as expensive.
Perhaps – despite the warnings about taking too many snifters at home alone – the seniors are doing the right thing after all?
As for me, I've been told that if I give up alcohol – along with tobacco, red meat and various other unpleasant things – I could enjoy another 20 years. Odd use of the word that. Enjoy.