We were celebrating a birthday with friends over the weekend when the conversation turned to our impending old age and retirement home choices. Yes I know, not exactly a thrilling topic but at some point one has to vaguely start thinking about it. An animated discussion followed with everyone putting in their two cents worth whilst chugging back vin brulé. (A mulled wine typical of northern Italy).

The Argentinian-born lady said a retirement village in Havana with its Cuba Libre cocktails was the place for her, the Brit said Miami with its muchachas, the Italian said a shack in Zanzibar suited her. I said I didn’t care where, as long as I had a spectacular view of the sea, a short walk onto soft white sands, a palm tree to park under and an annual all-round temperature that never went below 15°C or above 25°C. I may have also added that if it had fabulous restaurants and bars, that would be even better. By the way, if anyone knows of such a place, let me know, please. I need to start planning.

We all had a good chuckle until someone brought up the current and controversial subject of physician-assisted suicides and the die-with-dignity issue – topics which are being debated by certain EU countries at the moment. At this point the discussion got a little serious as we all reflected that this could concern any one of us in the future. Naturally, the intake of vin brulé rose sharply at this point, or at least in my case it did. I was happier talking about cocktails and chaise longues poolside.


Last year, the story of the comatose Italian woman, Eluana Englaro, was at the centre of a euthanasia debate that divided Italy and sparked a constitutional crisis. She died at the age of 38, four days after a ruling by the Supreme Courts that allowed her doctors to remove her life support. Her father had been fighting for more than a decade for a dignified end to his daughters’ life in accordance to what he and her friends testified were her own fervent wishes. She had been in a vegetative state for 17 years after a car accident.

While all these discussions were going on, our children were playing and supposedly minding their own beeswax. This was obviously not the case with my first born who in any case has ears like a hawk. It just so happened that a couple of days later I was doing the mom thing and meting out some punishment in the form of: no mobile phone, limited use of notebook and so on until you change your attitude, don’t answer back, blah, blah, blah.

After hearing me out she turned to me with a wry grin and said: “You might want to consider this mom. I am probably going to be the one who will decide which retirement home to put you in when the time comes so, if you want that room with a view, be nice to me.”

I was momentarily stunned into silence, then I recovered and added no TV to her list! Am I going to have to be on my best behaviour for the next thirty years just in case I outlive my husband and am forced to rely on my daughters’ mercy? I think its time to start preparing my living will.



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Born and raised in South Africa, Manuela worked in public relations & marketing before moving into the publishing industry where she made her career. At the infamous Radium Beer Hall in Orange Grove, she met, and later married, an Italo-Natalian electronic engineer. They moved to the Netherlands and produced two perfect little people Katia & Max before moving to the scenic region of Friuli in the north-eastern corner of Italy, the place of origin of their respective parents. She does freelance work to keep the grey matter active and is currently working on her approach to the upcoming half-century milestone whilst raising her two pre-pubescent children, her biggest challenge to date.