Stairway to heaven: baby boomers trip to that great big opium den in the sky
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Stairway to heaven: baby boomers trip to that great big opium den in the sky

As we baby boomers contemplate our future living choices, I am working on a business plan to solve this growing problem once and for all.

Forget nursing homes, assisted living facilities and staying on in the family home alone. What we need is tricked out opium dens. Let's call them Stairway to Heaven. Led Zep won't mind. By then, they'll probably have forgotten they even wrote it.

Illustration: Matt Davidson.

Illustration: Matt Davidson.

This international franchise will feature light-softened communal rooms scattered with comfy sofas and chaises longues. You will never feel lonely and isolated. Due to the deafness factor, the music from our generation – the best music ever recorded (and which made us deaf in the first place) – will be delivered via headphones.

The amazing recent discovery connecting demented people with their youth, via their favourite old songs, will be central to Stairway's success. Santana can whip you right back to that magical moonlit skinny dip when all your bits bounced and rejoiced. Jimi will do what he always did – blow your mind – whatever's left of it. They call me mellow yellow. Oh, yeah.

Message from the baby boomers.

Message from the baby boomers.

Photo: Dominic O'Brien
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Feeling Groovy? You bet. The opium that will wash away all your worst thoughts and deliver wonderful dreams will be delivered via exotic pipes packed with organic Tasmanian opium. Or, if you prefer, you can sip a pleasant poppy tea. The rural economy will greatly benefit and your aches and pains will be forgotten.

Meals will be minimalist with dessert the main feature – the sweeter the better. Walking frames will feel like magic carpets, and bingo will be outlawed. With laxative-laced nightcaps, that old foe, constipation, will be banished forever. If you are an ageing agitator still yearning for a political fix, a bus will pick you up once a week and deliver you to a public space where you can make a lot of noise and sing We Shall Overcome.

Because you will have. You will be off in your own little world. Never again will you freak out when one of those terrifying TV ads for funeral insurance or the right super scheme come on reminding you that you won't have enough to live on until you get to your own funeral. You won't even notice when the kids and grandkids don't turn up.

That is, if you even have kids. Many boomers chose not to reproduce or misplaced them somewhere along the way. Or maybe you just started hiding under the bed whenever they dropped round to visit. A woman I know told me she hasn't seen or spoken to her kids in 30 years. "I can't stand them," she said. "They're so damn boring."

But even if you do have them – and actually like them – there is no guarantee that they are going to be there for you in your old age. Unless, of course, they never left home in the first place, in which case, you may be the one longing to flee.

For those who would prefer an unending trip without the drugs, there is always the cruise ship. Retirement on water. This option first popped up looking suspiciously like an urban myth: octogenarians floating around the world in luxury, enjoying the delights of a never-ending buffet – and an escort to deliver you right to the table. Cabin steward service promised to put an end to a lifetime of dreary housework, and a spa and beauty parlour guaranteed you looking hot if you felt like busting some moves on the dance floor with an ever-changing cast of characters. Dancing is very good for preventing Alzheimer's, as is playing bridge, which is also a big hit on cruise ships.

You would need to dance or participate in some lively on-board activity after all that free food. Research from the Mayo Clinic shows that people over 70 years of age who eat more than 2100 calories per day, almost double their risk of mild cognitive impairment. Not that you'd care. Where are we docking today? Hawaii? I thought they said Holland. Which one's got the Maui Wawi?

Far from being an urban legend, intrepid retirees are indeed embarking on old age upon the ocean waves, albeit in a cabin closer to a closet than a suite on the Royal Yacht Britannia. Selling up and moving on. And often at a cost far lower than the more traditional options. This is a big deal when, according to a study by REST Industry Super, an eye-watering 86 per cent of Australia's boomers are financially unprepared for their old age, and many are facing the terrifying prospect of having the extra cost of unemployed offspring and needy aged parents.

When you are finally bored with circumnavigating the world, and bored with life itself, maybe too ill or in too much pain to want to carry on, a dignified end of life option would be available. In compliance with maritime law regarding crimes in international waters, your ship would have to be flying the flag of a humane and sane nation that had legalised voluntary euthanasia; maybe the Swiss flag – or closer to home – the Victorian flag if that state's Parliament, backed by ever-growing public support, makes the bold leap to vote physician-assisted dying into law next year.

After bottoms up with a nice Nembutal cocktail, surrounded by your nearest and dearest who have come aboard at the latest port of call, the captain could lower you over the side in a lifeboat, and you could bid the world farewell as you float off into the sunset to the strains of Grace Slick singing White Rabbit.

"Tell 'em a hookah-smoking caterpillar has given you the call …"

Now that's an exit.

Valerie Morton is a filmmaker and freelance writer.

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