Aviva Equity Release

This is another follow-up to my post “Equity Release Revisited” which prompted me to look into the subject again and start a new series of blogs on the subject.  I first wrote about this in 2012 and then again in 2015.  (You can find my earlier posts by clicking on Equity Release in the TAG CLOUD).

As part of my research, I found a full page advert from Aviva about Equity Release.  It offered to send a FREE EQUITY RELEASE GUIDE and I decided to follow it up.  The only problem was they didn’t include an email address, you had to call an 0800 number which I didn’t want to do.  I looked exhaustively on the Aviva website and couldn’t find an email address anywhere.  Which is astounding in this day and age!  However, I did find something called a “chatbot” which allows you to get into a live conversation with them.  Although you’re not really talking to a person at all.  This is Artificial Intelligence and all you’re able to do is type messages to a robot and get instant robotic messages back.    Here is how the “conversation” went :-

Aviva Chatbot “Conversation”

Me.                             I would like a hard copy of your Equity Release guide?

Aviva Chatbot.    To discuss or request a copy of your Equity Release documents, please call our customer support team on 0800 158 4177.

Aviva Chatbot.    I am here if you have any more questions.

Me.                            I don’t wish to discuss over the phone

Aviva Chatbox.    Sorry, I didn’t understand. Can you repeat your question in a different way?

Me.                           I am hard of hearing and I do not wish to use the telephone to discuss Equity Release

Aviva Chatbot.   Sorry, I still don’t understand. As I have not been able to help you, please click here to find out how to contact us.

Aviva Chatbot.   We aren’t always able to provide an email address or fax number, however we have the below alternative contact options.

Aviva Chatbot.    Please select how you would like to contact Aviva:

Me.                           Do you think this is a customer friendly response?

Aviva Chatbot.   Sorry, I didn’t understand. Can you repeat your question in a different way?

Me.                           Do you only have one answer to each question, I only want a brochure?

Aviva Chatbot.   Sorry, I still don’t understand. As I have not been able to help you, please click here to find out how to contact us.

So after all this, I’m none the wiser and I still don’t have a brochure from Aviva.  I wonder how much business they lose by making it difficult to communicate in the manner you wish?

Posted in ELDERLY MARKET | Tagged | 2 Comments

Equity Release – Pot of Gold?

This is a follow-up to my post “Equity Release Revisited” which prompted me to look into the subject again and start a new series of blogs on the subject.  I first wrote about this in 2012 and then again in 2015.  (You can find my earlier posts by clicking on Equity Release in the TAG CLOUD).

The latest reports in the press about the joys of  Equity Release suggest that pensioners are drawing down £11 Million a day, against their housing asset.    That’s a staggering £4 billion a year !!!!!!!

That’s a lot of Lamborghini’s.    George Osbourne’s one time idea of what old people could spend their pension funds on.  🙂

In fact it would only buy about 13,000 Lamborghini’s, so a lot of pensioners would miss out unless they had a luxury car-sharing scheme.   Still, it would be very interesting to see what 13,000 pensioners racing about in Lamborghini’s would look like.  I expect it would raise a few eyebrows and attract more than a few speeding fines 🙂

Now coming back to Equity Release, the typical loan to value ratio of Equity Release is 30%.  So these new petrol heads have effectively handed control of £12 billion of their wealth to a pack of avaricious insurance companies.  I wonder if they’ll regret that decision if they subsequently require care and find that the loan companies won’t lend them any more money.

No doubt they will also offer to insure the Lamborghini’s too.  Although I am certain that won’t be cheap either, they will probably want half of your newly acquired loan.

Posted in ELDERLY MARKET | Tagged | 3 Comments

High Price of Dignity

Following on from my last weeks post about the under funding of Residential Care comes a contrasting viewpoint.    A headline in The Guardian —— “Scandal Of UK’s worst Care Homes Revealed”.

The article reports on an investigation carried out by the paper into the finances of the companies that run the 220 Care Homes rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission.     Far from being impoverished,by being unable to charge higher fees,  just three small companies were making £113 million pre-tax profits !

There is nothing new in these headlines, they could have been written about any number of Residential Care companies anytime in the last twenty years.

There is no question that many homes are struggling financially because Social Services fees have been held down for so long.  But, not every home is in that situation.   Homes making vast profits have no excuse for delivering poor quality care, nor having low staffing levels, nor paying minimum wages.

The Care Quality Commission have a  duty to understand a Care Homes financial viability and should tackle head on any home delivering inadequate care while at the same time making huge profits.

Posted in Residential Care | Tagged | 2 Comments

Dignity be damned again !

Care homes are again in the headlines.     The Daily Mail has once again raised its campaigning banner “Dignity for the Elderly”.  It’s been a very long and wholly ineffective effort.   It started way back in 2010, when I first began this blog and it has periodically popped back into the headlines ever since.  ( You can follow my earlier posts by clicking on “Dignity be Damned”  in the Tag Cloud ).

I have never been convinced about the campaign, it has been half-hearted, spasmodic and wrongly directed.    You have to wonder if the Daily Mail really cares or are just trying to sell a few more newspapers.

In the early years the campaign was full of outrage and celebrities.   Michael Parkinson lead the cause and was even crowned ‘Dignity Champion’.   But he gave up quite quickly and moved on to selling funeral plans !   The Government set up a Commission which wrote a lot and recommended a lot after several years of study and then quietly faded away.

The latest revival, eight years on, is all about the high cost of residential  care, with a sprinkling of outcry about the poor quality.  But, it’s  still not dawned that it is not about “Dignity” it is about abuse and shameful exploitation of vulnerable older people.

Residential Care has always been a “go-away” solution.   Successive Governments over the last forty years have wished the problem of frail older people would go away.    The ever-growing numbers of our older population have made the issue a financial nightmare, exacerbated by the high levels of dementia.    But, the problem still won’t go away!

It’s not just the Governments that are to blame, they are ultimately in the hands of the electorate.   Since every solution requires more money the politicians know they won’t get re-elected by suggesting expensive answers.   Particularly ones that cost the children of the old people their inheritance, although I am not sure they are right about this.  I’m sure the majority of children would wish their mother or father, who has to go a care environment, a happy life in older age and would certainly accept that they may have to pay more to cover the cost of this.

So the problem continues.   The bottom line is that society as a whole wishes the problem of old people would “go away”.  The long awaited Green Paper on social care, has been postponed for more than a year, but we are promised it will be published before the end of this year.  Don’t hold your breath and don’t expect too much!



Posted in ELDERLY UK POLICY, Residential Care | Tagged | 2 Comments

Depressed Birds

Just a week ago I was writing about too many older people being prescribed anti-depressants to combat loneliness.  (See “Quick Fix Depression” by clicking on Pills in the TAG CLOUD).

GP’s don’t change their habits easily, so I don’t expect anything to happen as a result of the Health Minister’s exhortations to cut back on prescriptions.   Although tranquilizing old people is one way to stop them grumbling all the time.

There is one thing that might force a change of approach.    A study of starlings at York University found that exposure to Prozac reduced their sex drive.      A unique and essential piece of research !

Apparently, starlings are attracted to sewage plants to feed because of all the insects.   We all know older people pee a lot and combined with excessive use of anti-depressants, this is causing a build up of  Prozac in the sewage system.    This then attracts lots of insects who no doubt get high on the Prozac.    Then the unsuspecting starling population gobbles up the insects, little knowing that this is going to ruin their sex life.   Hence less starlings.

This could lead to an environmental disaster.    Birds first then there will be no bees.  And where would we be without the birds and the bees ?

Who on earth would have thought of doing this excellent piece of research on sewage plants and starlings’ sex lives???   Perhaps this will finally persuade the Government to do something about the over-prescribing of pills to old people 😀

Posted in SMILES | Tagged | 2 Comments

Quick Fix Depression


The number is rising every year.   Have they become the new ‘go-away pill’ of the year.  In the quick-fix, cure-all, out-of-sight, out-of-mind GP service and the bed-blocked, older-people-are-a-constant-nuisance NHS.

A double page spread in The Times, 21 July would seem to suggest that  the epidemic of loneliness amongst the increasing population of older people is being treated this way.     A map in the article charts the level of prescriptions for depression in different areas of the country.     Best not live in the North of England, nor Lincolnshire or East Anglia.      And don’t try escaping to Torbay or the Isle of White.    These are all areas with the highest rates of prescribing anti-depressants and not coincidently the highest rates of older people in the population.

The investigation finds that 7.3 million people are being prescribed anti-depressants.   This is a number that has doubled in the last decade and surprise, surprise, the elderly are the greatest ‘beneficiaries’.

Feel fed up – take a pill.    Not been out lately – take another.  Too many repeats on the tele – a pill might take the boredom away.   Lost a friend – a pill will help you forget.   Forget and a pill could help with that too.  Anti-depressants are rapidly becoming the new ‘go-away pill’ for older people.

GP’s are busy people and they can’t be expected to cure-all the ills of modern-day society, but anti-depressants are a quick out-of-the-door solution.  Pills are free to the elderly, but talking to them takes time.   Social clubs cost money, just like meals on wheels, day care, home visits and a little attention.   It used to be called compassion.

It’s easy to blame GP’s but the reality is, its society as a whole that marginalises older people.   That in turn creates the epidemic of loneliness.


Posted in Dementia, HEALTH | Tagged | 1 Comment

Dementia Repeats Itself

Sufferers of dementia are renowned for their forgetfulness and recognised by their tendency to repeat the same questions over and over.     I first came across this when I opened a nursing home called Newfield House in Coventry in 1987, which specialised in looking after people with dementia.

My very first blog in February 2010 was about dementia and I have regularly been writing about it ever since.  (You can see my earlier blogs by clicking on “Dementia” in the TOPICS LIST).   In fact I have written more posts about dementia than any other single topic.  Now it seems other writers in the media are following my example.

A recent conference in America was reported on in The Times.   It  repeated a story about “Overuse of drugs to treat dementia”.   It should be no surprise as the Department of Health raised the issue earlier this year.  (You can see my blog “Doctors in two minds” by clicking on Pills in the TAG CLOUD).

Looking back a few years and again the story surfaced in the findings of a report of research at Harvard University.   The study found that pensioners who regularly took pills for insomnia and anxiety were more likely to develop dementia.  (You can see my blog “Hooked on Pills” by clicking on Pills in the TAG CLOUD).

In Newfield House and in the five further specialist nursing homes we built, the first thing we did was reduce the levels of drugs the residents were prescribed.     It made the residents more difficult to manage and regularly repeated questions were part of the daily life of the home. The key difference between then and now, were the staff.   Thirty percent of the care staff were qualified Registered Mental Nurses, as was the Nursing Home Manager.   They were supported by NVQ trained care staff and between them and the relatives of the residents, they established care plans which were personalised to each resident.   The staff were hugely committed and had the patience of Job.

Sadly, with reduced staffing levels and severely constrained costs, the chemical cosh is now the silently tolerated treatment for dementia.

It seems as though it’s not only people with dementia who constantly repeat themselves, but also reporters, researchers and successive Governments.

Posted in Dementia | Tagged | 3 Comments