‘This getting old is no fun.’ How often do we hear this kind of keening from many of our aging contemporaries. Well, not unexpectedly, this column, gives you another take and a fuller picture of this growing old thingy. Anyone who tells you that growing old is no fun, is only half right.
Like every other generation of your life, growing old isn’t all fun – but to say it is no fun could not be further from the truth. It gets better … studies show that we seniors are among the happiest group of people and are significantly more happy than our middle-aged counterparts. There is loads of fun to be enjoyed in the state of ‘oldness.’
Let us get a few of the disadvantages out of the way first. Elderly people are naturally more likely to have health issues; but with modern medicine and great doctors, we are all living longer and healthier. However, if you don’t already have health insurance, nobody will take you now. The bank won’t give you a mortgage, the blood bank isn’t interested in your blood, and the RSA reckons that a 3 year driving licence should see you out. You look at your passport photo sometime and you wonder who is that old man that looks a lot like my father …
Yes, a lot of times you will be judged more on your outward appearance than how your brain functions. Only last month whilst waiting to board a plane at Alicante airport, a young guy (aren’t they all!) came scurrying along with a wheelchair – obviously seeking a body to fill the wheelchair. Maybe it was just where I was sitting; at least that is what I like to think; but in a good loud voice of broken English, he asked me, “Do you require assistance?” I’m sure this airport employee had never previously witnessed the ‘Seamus Darby shuffle’. So, by way of an answer, I jumped up and gave a demonstration of some fancy footwork!
Grandchildren are life’s greatest source of fun. But even here, sometimes ‘out of the mouths of babes’, will cruelly remind you that this is your last big gig. One day I was walking hand in hand, with my then 7 years old Spanish grandson, Ruari. After walking in silence for a few minutes he asked; ‘What are you thinking about, Grandad? I replied, ‘I’m thinking how lucky I am to have such a lovely grandson as you. ‘That’s right, Grandad’, said Ruari – and so I continued: ‘And at the rate you are growing, it won’t be long before you are a man, with your own house … and won’t that be another place for Grandad and Papam to come and stay?’ ‘It depends’, he answered without a pause. Slightly taken aback, I asked; ‘Depends on what?’ And would you believe what the ‘little cur’ said; ‘It depends if you are still alive, Grandad …!’
Grandparents love their grandchildren with a tenderness and understanding that they didn’t always manage to give their children. It is such an important relationship for both parties and a great source of fun.
The thing is that in retirement you have the time and the few bob to have fun. But remember that retirement in itself isn’t inherently joyful. It is how that time is used that brings satisfaction and fun into aging. We become more aware that time is a finite commodity and look on every new day as a blessing – a day to ‘do something with.’ Seniors have acquired wisdom and instead of running fast, we have learned how to pick our steps. Seniors have greater control over emotions and have learned to accept the crosses that are part of a full life.
In this fun-filled autumn of our lives, we are entitled to have a healthy sense of pride in what we have achieved. These accomplishments don’t have to have been headline feats. Raising a family and being able to say, ‘I made as difference’, is enough.
We oldies have nothing left to prove. We are what we are, can be ourselves, say what we think, do what we want – and have all the fun in the world. We have done it all and nothing to do now except to keep on doing the good bits over and over for as long as we can.
Best of all, we are being given free fun money to have fun with. I know we paid into our pensions … but it feels like free money now! Free travel to follow the fun, free banking, free GP, free TV, senior’s discounts and more.
Remember you can be younger at eighty than many who are old at forty. Growing old is brimming with fun: Enjoy this blessing because it is a privilege denied to many – as I am reminded every time I take a walk through Killulagh graveyard.
Years only wrinkle the skin, but lack of enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.