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Watch out for “Grasping Granny Syndrome”

Regular readers will have spotted that I’m still up in London doing my filial duty. And recently I’ve noticed a change in my 88-year-old mother that I’ve seen in the ageing parents of many of the people I know.

My mother, like most of her friends, retired at a time when many people had final-salary pensions for them and their wives and when, for those who weren’t on final-salary schemes, the interest rates paid on inflation-linked annuities were around 12% to 14%. They are closer to about 3.5% today. So, many of them are quite well off compared to the almost non-existent pensions anyone retiring in the next 20-30 years will get.

Many times, my mother has noticed with surprise how some of her friends are making ridiculous efforts to save money when they might as well spend what they have ensuring themselves a comfortable life. My mother has always been very generous and would always insist on paying for things and paying you back if you spent money on her.

But within the last year something seems to have flipped in her brain and she seems to be going to extraordinary lengths to save often pennies. These include going to poundshops to save a few pence, even when it means my wife (who looks after her a few days a week) has to spend about £4 on bus fares to save £0.15 or so on some tins of tuna fish or packets of pasta.

Previously when I paid some of my mother’s phone or electricity bills or bought her something like phones or a new oven, she always used to pay me back. Now she immediately ‘forgets’ about them. And now when we go out to a restaurant and the bill arrives, my mother never seems to notice it.

Other symptoms of GGS (also known as “Grasping Grandad Syndrome”) are elderly people laboriously counting out coins to pay for their supermarket shop while a long queue is getting increasingly impatient behind them and grand-dads and grannies who have been used to good restaurants, starting to eat the worst, cheapest, preprepared supermarket food, drinking from £4 ‘special offer’ bottles of indigestible wine and keeping old bits of food, milk and butter in their fridges long after they should have been chucked.

The same “Grasping Granny Syndrome” (GGS) appears to have affected a lot of people of my mother’s age. So, don’t be surprised if any of your relatives are affected by GGS. The only problem is – I don’t think there is any known cure.

Has anyone else noticed GGS in their relatives or acquaintances? Click on title to leave a comment or see comments.

4 comments to Watch out for “Grasping Granny Syndrome”

  • right_writes

    Well David, you have rather cleverly (cos you don’t know him) described my old Dad.

    He’s 91 and most of his faculties have left him, but he has developed GGS badly, his current account is groaning under the strain of all of those thousands of pounds. He never spends a penny on his family or grandchildren, because he wants to maintain a “bit of fat on his back”. And he eats revolting food from Asda’s freezer, when he used to be a bit of a gourmet.

    His one big expenditure is his cigars, which I get for him, I buy him about 60 and they seem to be gone after two weeks… Even though he only smokes 1 or 2 a day… apparently.

    Anyway, I think this is a symptom of a return to childhood, and is fairly common at this age.

    The latest example was when we went to a restaurant, he threw a bit of a wobbly, because he didn’t want anything, and then he decided he would have a steak and kidney pie… When it came, he said very loudly, what’s all this muck, I can’t eat all that… How much was it? (I said why), He said, because I want to pay for it, I ‘m never going to eat it all…

    He must have known that he wasn’t expected to pay for it, we just wanted him with us, didn’t matter what he ate, or didn’t.

    Anyway, all of this takes place at about a 100db, because he is as deaf as a post, so everything has to be repeated progressively louder, until one is shouting, and then he (helpfully) defuses the situation by telling whoever is the victim, that he actually heard, but didn’t understand.

    I actually think that looking after an old parent, is more difficult than looking after your own kids, along with all the childish behaviour, there is 6’ 5″ of meat, that is constantly in danger of toppling over, and there is no chance of him learning anything.

    Happy days!

  • Keen Reader

    This is a common syndrome. My father was certainly afflicted increasingly by it towards the end of his long life and, rather sadly, I now detect it amongst some of my septuagenarian scquaintances. I am determined not to be similarly afflicted – but then, I am still in full possession of all my physical and mental faculties!
    Perhaps in the present generation of old people, many of whom, like me, can remember the privations of the War years and even the appalling poverty of the Depression of the 1930s, the fear of financial insecurity never entirely disappears, regardless of income and/or savings. The Government is very given to pontificating about “childhood poverty” in families where the 42″ TV is the main feature of the household, the parents both smoke 40 a day, and every family member over about 10 years of age owns and can afford to use a smartphone, but the very elderly vividly remember (my own mother, a primary school teacher, certainly did) the era when poor children routinely came to school bare-footed. My mother used to say that the only time they couldn’t attend school was when snow lay “crisp and thick and even” over the fields and pavements, making the 2 or 3 mile walk to school without footwear impossible.
    It is a physiological fact that as we age the brain circuits recalling what we did, said and thought 60 years ago are far more firmly established than those recalling what we did, said and thought yesterday. This must, I think, be a factor in the apparent tight-fistedness and worry about the future of so many people who, frankly, probably have only a few years more to live. They have returned to the days of their youth, when every penny had to be preserved for the sake of the morrow.

  • John Fields

    As an 87 year old I am finding the blogs and comments very interesting. They will
    also give younger readers an insight ino their future. For me, old age is the best
    period of my life. Freedom from the restrictions of the work-place. Complete
    freedom of speech. The enjoyment of holidays abroad. Old age also brings two
    things. No fear of death and a care with money. I think that these are in-built trends.
    I do not want to make it sound too rosy, because with it comes 24 hour aches and pains.

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