Opinion: living long and prospering

Image by Matteo Di Maio / images via Wikimedia Commons

By Peter Carr

Sometimes writing about the ’oldies’ brings with it a feeling the folk of more advanced years do not care what others think, but prefer to take life as it comes.

Possibly they are buoyed by the fact that the advances presented by better health issues, the growing number of pills promoted by GP’s and innovative food choices (not to mention walking, cycling, Pilates and, dare I say it, blue pills that make promises of dreams that were once forgotten at 60) suddenly combine to produce a group of wrinklies that defy the Grim Reaper.

Nevertheless, we are there in the community, contributing, offering advice, giving sage thoughts to our younger family members, riding bikes, with or without battery propulsion, and even struggling into form-fitting Lycra to assist defying gravity, propulsion, water currents and even engaging in boxing activities. Yes folks – the oldies are leading the way towards the aura of achievable longevity.

This new nadir was brought home to me this week with my attendance at a legal presentation in South Auckland by a well-respected law firm. They were trying to assist their clients, and gain new business, from those of an age where some serious decisions were to be made. We learned that some household and family arrangements reveal that, as a nation, the proportion of family house ownership is at its lowest ebb since 1921. Intra-family arguments regarding the definition of gifts v loans are running rife. Older people are financially assisting younger people in their continual struggle to make progress and that should be very well and tightly defined if there is not to be multiple arguments later. We learned that since the 2019 legislation regarding Family Trusts there has been a mass exodus from what was once thought to be the ermine-lined bolthole protecting one’s hard-earned savings.

What really came to the fore was what constituted a de facto relationship. To achieve this state of mutual bliss one does not have to stay under a common roof. ‘Living apart together’ constitutes a de facto understanding and even socialising regularly together may also bring one under the DF umbrella. An interesting reality named a Contracting Out Agreement and the use of the Property Relationship Act take precedent over one’s will.

All this combined to tell those who have, sadly, been cast adrift socially due to the demise or disappearance of one’s life-long partner, does not automatically produce close-together bliss without some over-riding legal layer of the ability of one’s family’s perception of who-gets-what at The End.

It is a messy scene. Two people, technically living apart under separate roofs, each declaring single and separate pensions, are, to all intents and purposes, in reality de facto. So there is the proposition that some heavy-handed bureaucrat – or worst still, will-hungry family member, will wish to usurp that lovely relationship when one of the two people (who liked to hold hands in the movies) sadly departs this earth.

This was strongly brought home to me when a couple attending the seminar revealed that (her) 94 years old mother wishes to marry again. She is of sound mind and has every right to make her own decision. But the doubt the mental capacity of her intended new spouse. And where do they sit eventually, in the sharing out of the post-departure spoils?

This is a real muddle brought about by a multitude of inputs to these changing times. Health improvements, a move towards greater fitness, medical support and an approach to the frailty of marriage – in some respects, it’s incredibly sad but, like it or lump it, a reality that has to be faced.
Sometimes writing opinion pieces gives food for (some) thoughts that one does not necessarily wish to face.

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