I love my Australian friend. She packed up her flourishing business at 55 years of age and began her new journey of exploring the world and herself through her travels. Her husband too joined her in her plans -it was actually mutual! He winded his industry too and both decided to trek the various types of mountains in different countries and globe trot.
I admire people who adapt to their changing age with positivism and optimism- people who look at age and aging with grace and an opportunity for freedom and growth after life’s hard struggle. After children settle in their lives with their own families, parents would tend to become 60 years or so which is the official age of retirement. This is the crucial period as to how you perceive the time ahead and how you prepare to manage it and enjoy it. Very few couples would see it as an opportunity for doing things they always wanted to do but could not due to family responsibilities. They would free themselves of the burden of routine and monotony and look for interesting goals!
One woman went back to dancing at 50 years of age and always maintained that her first love was dancing and she would continue to dance till she dropped dead! When her children needed her the most, she denied herself the pleasure of it but started dancing again the moment she was free. Another friend of mine took to singing by hiring a music teacher and taking lessons seriously. She now sings at public forums and gets appreciated. Another friend trained herself in running marathons and achieved the second prize in her age category! My Uncle played his card game regularly in his Club with his friends till the day he passed off peacefully in his sleep at the age of 94!. My friend’s father played golf till the age of 95! What an abundance of energy. For the more serene minded people there is social work and social entrepreneurship to work and live for after retirement. It could be a time for personal enhancement and joy.
Caring for the children and families is a strenuous duty and people should look forward to the freedom in future rather than wallow in loneliness and insecurity. Those who understand the ‘empty nest’ syndrome prepare themselves in advance for it in a positive way. They train themselves to ‘let go’ of children and enrich their own lives while allowing the children too to lead their own. They are also aware of the perils of age-related disorders- the chief two monsters being ‘Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s and are prepared to ward it off with determination. Keeping themselves mentally and physically fit can be a full- time engagement. My enlightened friends engage themselves with puzzles, cross-words and maths to ward off the devils. They also enrol in gyms or exercise at home regularly for fitness.
In India we see a sort of age bias something akin to gender bias or any other bias for that matter. The aged would begin to think of themselves as ‘old’ and start expecting some special treatment from children and vice versa. The children would also think of their parents as old and begin to put restrictions on them. Let’s take clothing as an example. My Mother was barely 55 when we two sisters were grown up and independent, we would hear her say things like, ‘I am too old to wear bright colours such as red, orange or pink. I must dress soberly now. It does not look nice to do this or that as I have two grown up daughters.’ And so on. We tried explaining to her but in vain- she would not leave her traditionally biased opinions of what should be and not be at her age.
Let us take another example of behaviour. In a room full of people, the youngest one will get up to fetch the glass of water requested by a parent. And of course the girl child gets up rather than the male child! I told you the age bias is akin to gender bias. When this happens the message from one side is that ‘now you are old to do your own things and good enough to be dependent’, and from the other side is that I am old and I cannot get up to do my own things now.’ Traditionally such behaviour is termed as ‘respect’ for the elderly but in modern times it gets translated into dependency and aging. In many developed countries with socio-cultural changes, the aged are becoming more active, energetic and independent with a conscious choice of being like that. They fashion their responses in such a way where they say, ‘I can do that for myself- I am not old yet!’. They may take offense if treated as a ‘old person’.
Doing your own little things and being as independent as you can be and being active and engaged in a meaningful and purposeful way is the new norm. Age they say is in the mind and is just a number and we can live happily as long as we can and are destined to by God! Neither birth and nor death is in our hands but life and living are certainly within our reach. We should grab the opportunity with open arms and embrace life with joy. There is certainly no time for depression. It is a time for fun, laughter and happiness.