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request: that I’d pay for the roof to be fixed. Mine: that she’d find a ground floor flat, so that I could stop worrying about her falling down the stairs. We had quite a barney about that, I will admit. But six weeks later, she had located the perfect place, close to her old haunts and friends. The move, she would say later, had given her a new lease of life, and she continued well until her last days, just before her 93rd birthday.

Mum’s move had worked magic, but her reluctance to do it at all was common.

Mum’s move had worked magic, but her reluctance to do it at all was common. Most people refuse to think about the future, to the point where we fail to take decisions in our own interests. In so doing, we put ourselves and our families at risk. By most people I mean around 90 per cent of us. When McCarthy & Stone asked the owners of their retirement flats what made them live there, the answer was often bereavement, or an illness or disability in themselves or their partners. Ninety per cent only moved when they had to. Yet you can’t help feeling that if that decision had been taken earlier, some of the catastrophes might have been averted or their impact lessened.

Mum’s example meant that as my husband turned 70, I also made plans. That included getting closer to my own daughter and grand-daughter (now aged seven) and to our northern roots. This time, I insisted on ‘mains drainage and a pavement’. The spot we found has a doctor’s, dentist, newsagent, chiropodist, physio, wine shops, hairdressers, restaurants, takeaways and a supermarket, and -- bliss! -- a station, all within a short walk. We are set up, I hope, for the rest of our lives.

Why don’t more people do this? Whenever I knock on doors for elections, I’m struck at how many older people are rattling round in places that seem too big for them, properties which they may find a challenge to keep up. Sound familiar? One barrier is inertia, and dislike of change. It’s easier to shrink our activity into a couple of rooms, than go through the upheaval of moving. Downsizing means throwing precious things away, cherished furniture, books. Worst, moving is a confirmation that the future is not going to be the same as the past; many people would simply rather not think about it. Until, often, it’s too late.

So it’s important to rope in the family; like me, with Mum, they may be relieved that the issue has been raised. Get them to do the heavy lifting -- literally! Going flat-hunting


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