Sunday, 11 December 2016

A new ‘toke’ on the older persons Great British Bake Off?

Hmm, well in a week where I got to see Sir Rod Stewart, who at 71, gave the Manchester audience a fantastic show, and Sir Mick Jagger, now 73, celebrating the birth of his 8th child, all I managed was to catch a cold. Actually it wasn't even a full blown affair. I had those horrible symptoms that lurked just outside of being a streaming cold, but were sufficient to give rise to a headache, sneezing, sore itchy throat, a tickly cough and general fatigue. LemSip, and Whisky (but not in the same glass!) were the order of the day, and as I write this blog the cold has been kept at bay. I have always been an advocate of self-medication, and I know that many minor ailments are self-limiting, so I’ve not had a problem. It appears I’m not alone.

Many older people have to deal with a multitude of different chronic illnesses. Its been reported that for some people living with conditions such as cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, arthritic pain and even Alzheimer's taking cannabis has helped them. Allegedly, it is said that one joint can do the same job as a cupboard full of different medications. Recent research in the US has revealed that over the last 10 years there has been a 71% increase in cannabis use by people aged 50 years and older. Although the use tails off in those aged 65 or over, there has still been a rise in cannabis use amongst this group as well.

Over 50% of all States across the US have now legalised medicinal cannabis use, and 8% have gone further and legalised the recreational use of cannabis. It may well be that in the US purchasing cannabis is a cheaper and easier option than buying prescription medication. Here in the UK more than 15m people admit to having taken illegal drugs; 3m continue to do so. Whilst the biggest users of drugs are in the age group 35 - 44, like the US, there has been an increase in those over the age of 50 using illegal drugs. The middle classes and those who live in Scotland (not necessarily the same thing) show the greatest use, and cannabis remains the most popular drug.

Interestingly, the studies show that only a tiny number of people (4%) started to use cannabis after the age of 35. One consequence is that older users are probably more experienced and have a lower risk of harming themselves or others after use – although a particular concern appears to be the increased risk of falls. Prof Dame Sally Davies, once named as the sixth most powerful woman in Britain, and now holds the post of the UKs most Senior Medical Advisor was one of those who once tried cannabis. She has never smoked but baked it in cookies while she studied medicine at that other Manchester university in the 1970s.

Now aged 67 years old, last week she was offering advice on how the baby boomer generation (those born between 1946-64) could stay healthy. Cannabis didn't feature. However she recommended as we got older we stayed working or once we retired we took up some kind of volunteering work. 30% of British workers will be over 50 by 2020, and 12% of this group are older than the current pension age.

It would seem that many people are living much longer than ever before. Of concern to these people is the fact that there are changes on the horizon as to what the future pension age might be. You can find out here when you might be able to draw your pension. Interestingly my state pension age is the same (May 2021), in both England and Scotland. I was able however, and if I had so desired, to get a free Bus Pass in Scotland back in May 2015, although, I would only be able to use it on buses in Scotland.

Time for a quick recap – I am happy to self-medicate when I am ill. I am soon to retire from my job in England, to live in Scotland. I don't smoke, but I enjoy baking. I won't receive a state pension until 3 years after I retire so will be poor. But I get free public transport on buses to anywhere in Scotland. I enjoy meeting people and I am quite good at sales, and the Chief Medical Officer says I need to keep active to stay healthy – methinks there might be a niche market opportunity somewhere in all this. 

I am pleased to report that the week ended on a different kind of high. I traveled down to Cardiff to see my Mother and Father, both of whom are from the generation that preceded the baby-boomers. They both look amazingly fit and well, and it was a lovely day. As far as I know they don't use cannabis, but interestingly my Mother had a baked some good looking cakes that had us all smiling for hours after we ate them. And just before anyone rushes to complain about this week’s blog subject – please accept that the blog was written slightly tongue in cheek, and of course I would not and do not want to advocate any use of illegal drugs!