This is not directed at my peers, but at those who are contemplating retirement or for whom it is just over the hill. It was the current financial situation prompted these thoughts and so I will deal with the financial front first. The real problem of old age can be financial, the effect of an ever dwindling income, not necessarily caused by profligacy, often by circumstances. The difference between just enough and not enough can cause stress; finding food that is inexpensive, and perhaps having to wrap up on a cold night because the money for the electric meter has run out, and it is a choice between light and the TV, or a few minutes with the electric fire. The current financial environment is sending all the wrong messages, when English banks have been taken over by other banks in other countries, who then take over even more banks, only to discover that the last takeover was of a bank who had been particularly risky, and the whole effort is collapsing like a pack of cards; when the young see the careful savings of their parents dwindling in this way, as a result of the vast minority who have been allowed to ‘spend today and pay tomorrow’, they are likely to see little point in saving for their old age. This could be a natural reaction, especially in the light of all those people who have lost legitimate pensions at the whim of an employer. It is one that must not be allowed to become the norm, because the welfare budget in the future, and the level of poverty could be of such dimensions as to cripple the country. Pensions should be a government responsibility, contributed to by the employer and the employee, but guaranteed by the government, currently it is too easy to get out of hand
Retirement and old age are so different, and so progressively different in time, from the workaday life as to be worthy of a comment or two. All sorts of things, such as your type of work, type of play, accidents, bone breakages, and especially your psychology up until you retire, can have strong effects on your life in retirement. For example I’m convinced that taking golf seriously, and especially bracing the left side to ensure an even follow-through, caused me to have a replacement in my left hip joint. Broken collarbones, broken ribs, and breakages in limbs have all contributed to a situation where off the peg clothes no longer fit properly, and I certainly can’t afford tailor-made. I can just about pick things off the floor if I’m barefoot, that an extra inch on the heel of my shoes makes it impossible, and more than once in trying I have measured my length on the floor of a supermarket.
Your day at work was ordered by necessity, your day in retirement is totally unordered, except by necessary chores, but after the first flush, when you had done all the things that you wanted to do, or more to the point imagined you wanted to do, your life devolves into a smooth routine, where you can’t remember what day it is, they are so much alike, where a lot of the old familiar faces have disappeared, and travel becomes more tiresome than pleasurable, because you’re forced to use public transport. It is at this point a strong sense of humour, even a sense of the ridiculous is important. If times are hard, or perhaps even if they’re only boring and just a little tedious, where everything on the TV you have seen before, where you go for a necessary walk every day, but it is for exercise, not pleasure, then it is essential that you still smile. Many people in serious old age forget to smile instinctively, and what is worse they don’t realise that smiles are a reciprocal reflex action. The people you meet don’t know you very well, because those who knew you are no longer with you, and so you have to make not so much new friends, but friendly acquaintanceships, and a smile is the key to that. There is also another pitfall, and that is garrulousness. You’re on your own so much, you have thought about so many things, that when you come into company, unless you are careful, the dam on your thoughts will break, and you would be unaware that you were talking a blue streak, and all the good that your smile did will have been wasted.
One absolute essential for a happy old age is that you take, or make a point of finding and taking from your previous life, interests, call them hobbies or whatever, but ones you can still enjoy and indeed share with others, irrespective of your physical condition.
View ‘The Sterile Landscape of Old Age’ posted a year ago.