Turning misery into bliss in old age | Sunday Observer

Turning misery into bliss in old age

Almost all of us dread retirement from regular work. This is more so with regard to high officials and executives. There are problems relating to finances and health, once you stop working. Then there are emotional worries to cope with. However, there can be certain retirement perks provided you have some skills. These perks may not be comparable to official perks, foreign trips, Christmas hampers, invitations to cocktail parties at embassies and numerous other benefits you enjoyed.

Now you are a home bird. Your home is dominated by your sons and daughters. Your wife may find it queer to see her husband spending his time at home reading newspapers, novels and doing crossword puzzles. In addition, he listens to the radio and watches television regularly. You can see him applying all kinds of oils and balms on his limbs to relieve pain. When you were at work your wife ruled the household. Now she has been dethroned handing over the domestic affairs to you. She thinks, but never articulates that you shouldn’t have retired!

On your part, you feel lonely, neglected and discarded by everybody. Nobody respects you because you have no position in society.

Nobody comes to see you or to consult you. Your relatives and friends do not even telephone you. You feel lost in your own world. Past memories come flashing whenever you wear your thinking cap. They seem to be your only possessions.

Consolation

One consolation is that now you are your own master. There is no one to direct your activities. You don’t have to get up early in the morning and rush to office to beat the deadline. How many times have you missed the bus or train and went to office late and got a pay cut? On some days you managed to save your skin while crossing crowded streets. But, now you can heave a sigh of relief. You have been freed from slavery and the drudgery of working for another man or his company. When you were young you liked to take orders and occasional praise, but your role has changed. Now, everything is topsy-turvy. The change is inexorable and most unwelcome. You check your bank balance every now and then. The figures remain the same except the small interest you get from the bank. Sometimes, your children bring something for you to eat. They hardly give you money thinking that you have saved millions of rupees.

Every day you look out of the window only to see young men and women rushing to their workplaces in a continuous stream. Their faces are brimming with happiness. For a moment you think of your own days when you loved to work almost every day, including holidays. Some of your colleagues called you a workaholic. You took it as a compliment.

Gifts and praise

At the send-off party you were showered with all kinds of gifts and praise. Now, the gifts carefully displayed in glass cabinets are gathering dust. One consolation is, you do not have to break rest now. You can have an eight-hour sleep or even more. There is no heaviness of the head or heart. The whole day is yours to do what you like.

You can have a late breakfast or lunch. There is no compulsion to have them at a particular time. Dinner, however, has to be taken on time. Otherwise, your wife will grumble. When you visit your children and grandchildren they may not be at home. Most of them are out attending private tuition classes. Sometimes you wish to see your old friends, but your wife warns you to be careful when travelling. She treats you like a child.

Most adults like you who are over 60, feel that they are at least 10 years younger than their actual age. One third of those between 60 and 75 say they feel 10 to 20 years younger than their actual age. According to a national survey held in the United States, old age begins at 68. However, some senior citizens like you tend to believe that old age really begins at 75!

Chronological age

You have heard of chronological age, physiological age, cognitive age and psychological age. As a rule of the thumb, anybody over 100 is really old. If you are between 65 and 100, you belong to the mid-old age. Middle age begins at 35 or 40 and runs till 60 or 65. Such digits have no meaning if you are fit as a fiddle – physically and mentally.

The younger generation treats old men and women like you as an unwanted burden. Old people are overwhelmed by the vision of loneliness and a terrible feeling of redundancy. The picture becomes all the more awesome with the failing health and illness. A sense of despair looms over pleasant feelings. Indeed, the loneliness and neglect are associated with old age. It is a recent phenomenon. It is the outcome of the break-up of the traditional joint family system. Growing urbanization and fast moving lifestyle has aggravated the situation. Earlier, old people were respected in society and in family for their advice. They guided the younger generation. The situation has undergone a sea change.

In extreme old age you need help when you become physically and mentally infirm. What is more, you get a feeling of emotional insecurity. In this materialist society nobody, not even your own children, have time for you. It is a tragedy.

Even with such problems there is no cause for you to press the panic button. To know how to grow old gracefully is the master work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living. John G. Diefenbaker (1895-1979), a Canadian statesman, approaching his 80th birthday said, “While there’s snow on the roof, it doesn’t mean the fire has gone out in the furnace.” You can also draw inspiration from W. Somerset Maugham who said, “The greatest compensation of old age is its freedom of spirit, the other compensation is that it liberates you from envy, hatred, and malice.”

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