Tuesday, May 16, 2017

"Granny farms" - A Modest Proposal, by JD


Reading Wiggia's excellent post - http://theylaughedatnoah.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/granny-farms.html - he has highlighted the fact that the current system of care for the elderly is far from satisfactory. It is an important subject not least because we are all going to need looking after at some stage.

It is difficult to find how we have arrived at having approximately 11,000 care homes in the UK.. The Wiki entry is a bit vague on the origins of what is now the care home 'business' But it seems to have expanded very rapidly during the 1980s: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nursing_home_care

That boom in the number of care homes during the eighties attracted some of the more dubious 'entrpreneurs' who saw a money-making opportunity. I can say that with some confidence by retelling the tale I told Wiggia and which he refers to in his text:

About 30 years ago (or more) I knew an Englishman running a bar in Spain and he used to talk occasionally about selling up and moving back to England to invest in what he called Granny Farms: the care home business. He disappeared and when I asked where he was I was told he had done just that; gone home to open a care home. But it was the term Granny Farm that gave a clue to his thinking. There was no charitable or other noble ideal involved, it was a business opportunity. It was just at the beginning of that point in history which saw the emergence of the 'yuppies' and 'greed is good' culture so it is hardly surprising that many care homes are less than ideal.

There are maybe half a dozen care homes in my local area; I haven't been in any of them (yet!) and I don't like the idea of having to move into one. 'Death by bingo' is not my idea of a healthy retirement. From what I have heard it seems that at least two of the homes are rather unpleasant places run with that 'granny farm' mentality. One of them is run by people who seem motivated simply by profit. Another one is currently building an extension. And from the outside it looks as though they are just more poky bedsits.

There is also a care home opposite the Working Men's Club and that one would have been my choice if necessary. Maybe not now, because one of the carers there died a few years ago. I knew her reasonably well and she was good at her job and actually did care about the people she looked after. And here we come to another important factor. It all depends on the people who work in these places. If it is 'just a job' then it is not going to be a nice place to live.

That is something which is not even mentioned when politicians start devising 'solutions' to the problems of old age and care. They look at it as a financial or management problem that can be 'solved' given sufficient money. An earlier post on Broad Oak about throwing money at a problem applies also to the problems of looking after the Oldies:


After reading that post it is even more obvious that a radical solution is needed to help improve life for the elderly but radical thinking, or indeed any kind of thinking, is not a skill one finds among politicians or bureaucrats.

In fact this problem has been a long time coming in that there has been such a fragmentation in our society including the dissolution of families. Fifty or sixty years ago such a crisis was unthinkable.

From what I know this is not a crisis in other countries, certainly not in Italy or France or Spain. They still regard family as the focal point of life.

Wiggia sent me some links to how the Italians deal with things. What comes out of those links is that the family side is in trouble because of the low birth rate so the state is having to step in but in a different way to here.

The other thing that was interesting was that Italian care homes are in the centres of towns or cities rather than on the fringes. So with the Mediterranean style of living, sitting outdoors at cafe tables, there is much less chance of Oldies feeling isolated. Among other things, the weather in the UK is against us for a similar idea to work here.

Meanwhile in Spain there are some who just refuse to grow old! -

"Francisco Nunez, 112, is from Bienvenida, Badajoz, southern Spain. Nunez lives with his octogenarian daughter. He says he doesn't like the pensioners' daycare center because it's full of old people."


But what underlies the stories from Italy and Spain is that both countries still have strong family bonds and communities. That is still the case to a large extent where I live but I don't know about the rest of the country.

I propose my own radical solution which you can dismiss as silly if you wish but........

Many years ago my mother would watch people passing the window and she knew which of them were on their way to the local British Legion for their Sunday 'liquid lunch' and, at closing time, they would make the weary journey homewards. (This was in the days of restricted opening hours.) And then in the evening the same faces would again pass the window for their second visit to the Legion.

My mother would often say "The Legion should build some bedrooms for them so they can sleep it off and save all that walking back and forth!"

Now that is more than just a throwaway joke because there is a precedent of sorts. The famous and exclusive Gentlemen's Clubs in London such as the Carlton Club, the Army & Navy Club, the Royal Automobile Club and others do in fact have bedrooms for their members who may wish to stay overnight. If it is good enough for the upper echelons of society, surely it is an idea to be copied by the 'lower orders'.

There are three Clubs close to where I live: the Working Men's Club, the British Legion and the Conservative Club. All three are thriving whereas the pubs are dying on their feet like pubs up and down the country. One of the reasons is that the Clubs belong to the members and are non-profit organisations. Any profits accrue to and are spent for the benefit of the members.

It is a logical step for the Clubs, as existing 'hubs' of communal life, to follow the example of those London clubs and offer the same facilities. It is a further logical and small step to provide for the elderly members a permanent residence within their premises. And it would be another logical and small step to develop that into a combination of care home and Club.

Most of the facilities are in place already in the form of a concert room (now called grandly the 'functions room') and quieter lounges away from the bar area. Many of these clubs already provide food so it would not be too much of a stretch to expand the kitchens. And the Clubs already provide things which would be appreciated by oldies: our Conservative Club currently organises coach trips to the races, the Working Men's Club currently has dancing most nights of the week (how times change!) - that's proper dancing by the way, not the nightclub style of jiving and twisting the night away - the Legion already hosts an Over 60s club and has done for many years. I fact my granny was chairman of that club for the last 20 years of her life.

Most, if not all, of the current residents in care homes will be members of one or other of the Clubs anyway and I feel sure they would be very keen on such an idea. And there is the joke among local gossips - "Oh So-And-So, you would think he lived in the Club!"

It could become a reality.

Feel free to tell me why it wouldn't or couldn't or shouldn't work.

P.S. There is a long tradition of self-help and self-improvement in this country from the Rochdale Pioneers through the Yorkshire brass bands to Northumberland's Pitmen Painters. The problems of care of the elderly will not be solved by the 'higher busibodies' in Whitehall and Westminster, 'top down' solutions rarely work. It has to come from the people who will be the ultimate beneficiaries of any new ideas.

Some links to give an idea of how the Oldies fare elsewhere -



Paddington said...

Care for the elderly was never very nice, even when done by families, in many cases. We just live too long now.

wiggiatlarge said...

Paddington, you make a salient point that is worth a post on it's own, I did allude to it some time back elsewhere but it is not just the length of time we are now spending on this planet it is the effects that grow out of that fact and they are far reaching.

wiggiatlarge said...

By sheer coincidence Laura Perrins over on Conservative Woman is making the point about Teresa May and the big state, I quote.............

So let’s just say it again: without strong families based on marriage you can expect free markets to die and State interventionism to grow. Write this down: the weaker the family, the bigger the State.

We have to have a big State if you have social liberalism, as it is the only thing left to fill the gap left after the family falls apart. Why is this so difficult for the big wigs to understand?

Jim in San Marcos said...

Here in the US, rest homes for the elderly run about $4,000 a month. A married couple that has one member in a rest home can deplete their retirement savings at a clip of $50,000 to $60,000 a year. Medicaid can cover some of it, along with your kids.

This can be the scariest financial part of retirement, moving into a rest home.

wiggiatlarge said...

"Here in the US, rest homes for the elderly run about $4,000 a month."

Sounds as though it is cheaper than here then at £1000 -£1400 a week.

Jim in San Marcos said...

Hi wiggiatlarge

You pay more or I interpreted it wrong? I thought your government covered you from cradle to grave. £4000 a month is a lot more dollars.