“Old age ain’t no place for sissies,” said Bette Davis, who lived till she was 81, and still had Bette Davis eyes.
According to geriatricians, who try to discover new things about old people, our early and middle years are just a preliminary training period for the pleasures of being an elderly adult — what they refer to as “the happy senescence phenomenon.”
After 40 or more years of hoping to become the chairman of the company, the time finally comes to sit in a rocking chair and enjoy the company of friends rather than the musical chairs of office politics. With age comes wisdom, claimed Oscar Wilde, before adding that “for some, age comes alone.” When I was young, wisdom was beyond my grasp, and well done, you, if you managed to get hold of some, or any.
It seems to me that in certain instances “making the most of retirement” appears more like hard work — hiking, travelling, quilting, volunteering to look after old people (!), learning to paint, bungee jumping or even worse. (Decluttering your attic.) Other suggested means of diverting yourself post-retirement often include learning to play a musical instrument. But what if you were previously first violinist with the London Symphony Orchestra?
On the subject of hobbies, the comedian Jack Dee (60) claims that hobbyists’ delusions depend on the nature of their hobby. Very few bird-watchers, he says, need validation from other people, as such an activity is its own reward. “All you need to become a twitcher is a pair of binoculars, warm outdoor clothing, and a hatred of human company.”
Those more advanced in years probably possess more emotional stability than the young, and my eyes are welling up with grateful tears at that very idea. Aches and pains may increase, but cognitive decline can make us forget bad things more quickly, and isn’t it said that ignorance is bliss?
I have no wish in my declining years to ‘become a mystery shopper’ — sounds a bit like a shoplifter — or to ‘fly to a randomly selected location with no itinerary’ — that’s how I got jobs abroad — and as for becoming a ‘survivalist’, can’t I claim to be one already, at 75?
Oldies, in my opinion, are more to be envied than pitied. Those I feel sorry for are the modern gamers who develop a kind of living rigor mortis brought on by sitting for days on end crashing cars and shooting at fleeing avatars.
I’m not too proud nowadays to accept, when people ask if I need help with high shelves or self-service machines in supermarkets. My main hope for the future is to grow even older and still have all, or most, of my marbles. If not, I can always buy new marbles — as long as someone gets them down from the top shelf for me.