For some reason, the BBC has recently been running a series of radio and television programmes on the theme of aging and the elderly – for instance, in “When I Get Older”, four “famous pensioners” were sent to live first with an elderly person, and then in a care home, to see what life is like for the unfamous pensioner. A bit grim, truth be told. But this has ignited (or perhaps been prompted by) discussions about paying for our aging population – how to foot the pensions and care bill for the more and more people who are living longer and longer, often needing support for many years more than they contributed to the economy in the first place. And in every discussion comes that loaded term: means testing – as in this Telegraph article.
Of course, means testing is not restricted to decisions about care for the elderly – it’s there for child support payments, and NHS care, and unemployment benefit. But for the senior citizen, it seems particularly vexed: if you work hard all your life for a good wage, save carefully and own your home, you may well be required to sell that home (rather than passing it on to your children) to pay for your care, while someone who was on benefits all their life will get the same care without having to fund it (because of course they cannot). So I do wonder whether this peculiar imbalance will encourage the more financially astute to try to hide their assets – leading to unintended laundering. If they are wealthy enough to pay for private care and medical attention all the way through, it is a non-issue – but what of the middle-income pensioner who has some savings and wants to preserve those as an inheritance or for a blow-out holiday? Wouldn’t it be tempting for them to fail to declare that money – after all, who wants to spend their savings on Zimmer frames and bedpans that others are getting for free?