Monday, 12 February 2007

Cold Winters Ahead?

A couple of articles on the BBC web site caught my attention this week. The first reported a survey from Scottish Widows (an investment company) that only about a third of self-employed people are saving enough for old age (see article). The survey is riddled with holes (for example, it only discusses the acquisition of financial instruments, which have been out of favour in recent years, and not property, which has been in favour). However, despite the reservations, the article sat well with a piece on the inability of UK pensioners to stay warm his winter (see article). We have just experienced a cold snap and this is something of a topical issue in the UK at the moment.

The articles describe the situation in the present. It becomes more interesting if we flesh the trends outwards into the future. If we add an overlay of climate change on top of the diminshed purchasing power of retirement incomes we start to see a point where our behaviour may change. For example, two people can enjoy the warmth of a room as much as one person. And so on until the capacity of the room is reached. I wonder if, in an environment of acute cold snaps, of soaring energy prices, diminishing purchasing power of pensions, we might see a move towards a form of communal living?

In many ways, we are. Many retirement facilities include a communal 'day-room' of some sorts. Churches are starting to place emphasis upon parish visitor groups. And, as the costs of elder-care soar, we are also seeing the reconnection of the extended family. It is now more common to see three or more generations living in the same house.

Perhaps we have reached a high water mark for the atomistic family. Perhaps financial circumstances will re-connect the family as a unit?

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