ONE of the sadder facts of reaching a certain age is you find yourself having to go to an increasing number of funerals.

It’s not an overnight thing, it sort of creeps up on you without you really realising it.

And you also start to realise that the age gap between you and those whose funeral you are attending is getting narrower and narrower.

I mention this after going to a neighbour’s funeral last week, someone I had know since I was a teenager.

The woman who died was in her 80s and it was a jolly affair, if any funeral could said to be jolly.

She had left careful instructions about the how and where, she had chosen her own hymns and even wrote a short poem with instructions it be read out in church.

It provided comfort and succour for her family and as a woman of faith, she told them she believed she was going to a better place.

But it was only when I chatted to one of her close family members I realised just how fortunate my neighbour had been in later life.

True, she had suffered from a number of ailments, including arthritis and had had to have a hip replacement several years ago.

But she had remained active and independent until the day she died.

She lived in her own home which she was able to care for herself, she was mentally alert and truly mobile.

She hadn’t suffered from any of the illnesses that can blight old age and actually died of a heart attack in her own car while driving back from a bingo session.

Her granddaughter was happy her grandma had been able to stay in her own home, had not needed any intervention or help from social services and had not had to spend her final years in a care home.

Somewhat poignantly, the granddaughter herself had worked in care homes for the elderly and knew just how tarnished the ‘golden years’ could become.

This started me thinking about why we differentiate between what is termed social care for the elderly and residential medical care for those who are too ill to look after themselves.

Call me naive but somehow it just seems wrong that those people who have worked hard all their lives, have scrimped and saved to put a roof over their heads, paid tax and contributed to society end up having to sell their homes to pay for their care.

And let’s be quite clear here, it’s no one’s fault other than the sheer bad luck of getting a losing ticket in the great genetic lottery.

And make no mistake, we are all in that lottery. There’s something just waiting for you the older you get.

A few weeks ago, there was talking about being able to take out an insurance policy that would pay out if you found yourself needing care in later life but it seems to have gone very quiet on that front.

Then last week came the dramatic announcement that Greater Manchester was to become the pilot scheme whereby it would take over control of its own NHS budget.

I remain deeply nervous about handing over a £6 billion budget to a group of people more used to dealing with the policies on emptying bins and running libraries than having to decide which new cancer drug will be available and who can be treated with it or who qualifies for medical care rather than social care.

There’s no doubt, the issue of the NHS has been ‘weaponised’ and will be a key battleground come May’s general election and it looks like the Greater Manchester decision could be an opening salvo from the Conservatives.

And putting party politics aside, ask yourself this, do you really want the life and death issues of the NHS handing over to a man called Michael (or Mike for the that matter) Jones?