It’s an old-fashioned ladies hairdressers’, on a down-at-heel high road in the West Midlands. The owner – let’s call her Linda – has worked there for decades, cutting, washing and perming the hair of countless women she’s grown old with.

Chairs line both walls in front of mirrors, hair-dryers to one side. There’s a poster of a young Elvis and the price board has those press-in plastic letters that once seemed so modern.

Linda’s is what it has always been – a community space where women pop in as much for a chat as for a tidy up. Last year, one of the customers turned 100—she wasn’t the first—and there was sherry and cake at 9.30am, when she came in to get her hair done.

A week ago, that lady died. Many old friends have been lost in the past year or two. Linda says you can see it in how the takings are down. So now she’s had a letter from the Tax Office. They’re coming to interview her—to make sure the business is not a front for money laundering.

You’d laugh, if it weren’t so sad.

Is this really the best we can do in thinking about the needs of an ageing society?

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