I came across a TV interview last week on one of the satellite channels with Art Linkletter and Mark Victor Hansen. To be honest I knew neither man by name but as the presenter introduced them I was familiar with the second man’s work. Mark Victor Hansen is the author of the self help book Chicken Soup for the Soul and the plethora of Chicken Soup books that followed.
At this stage everyone’s soul has been covered there are so many titles in the series. Art Linkletter is apparently a very well known television/ radio star and businessman in the States. Mark Victor Hansen is in his sixties and Art Linkletter is a remarkably spritely 94! Together they have just written a book called ‘How to Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life’.
Their book premise and the basis of the interview is to try and dispel the myth that life in the senior years should be any less exciting or interesting than the first half century you live. They want to motivate and inspire people to embrace that next stage and by embracing it they insist that you can still continue to fulfill inner dreams, earn money, have a full sex life and a healthy, functioning brain and body until death.
The discussion was really very interesting. They spoke about how the age of retirement, generally around the 65 mark worldwide, was set at a time when average lifespan was quite low. If the circumstances of today existed when it was originally set it is possible that an appropriate retirement age would have been 75 years or even 80!
Here at home we saw pensioner power in action late last year when it came to the medical card/budget debacle. They were an articulate and strong group who were more than able to stand up for themselves against those ‘young scuts, Cowen and Lenihan’. The government certainly underestimated their strength as a group. While it is always admirable to see people passionately protest against an injustice it should also remind us that we often neglect to acknowledge such passion, spirit, drive and wisdom and harness it for the good of everyone.
With the Waterford Crystal crisis I have heard several sound bites about the concern for workers’ pensions and job losses. One representative on radio said that particularly workers over 50 had a very slim chance of ever getting another job! I’m not disputing this claim but it is a very sad reflection on our society and certainly nothing new. However I think the responsibility for this mindset lies not only with the employers but with the over 50s themselves. While it is easy to accuse ‘young pups and scuts’ of dismissing the wisdom and wealth of experience inherent in the older generation, very few ever look at the attitudes of the older generation as contributing to the problem! We all know at least one senior that has embraced the comfort zone of old age and uses it as an excuse not to do certain things.
Having reached 60, some people almost expect bodily bits to start packing up and giving out. ‘Wear and tear’ is attributed to arthritic conditions and other aches and pains. “It’s too late”, is often the mantra. While sometimes it is not a blatant, “let’s just give up”, there are subtle murmurings along those lines that all add up to the same thing.
Not exceptions to the rule
The media, as in everything, has quite a lot to answer for. We highlight supposed great feats of the older generation. For example if a more mature individual completes a marathon or any endurance endeavour, we place them on the front pages and pick them out in news stories as exceptions rather than the rule. This tells everyone that such achievements are only for the few, the special and not the masses. We hear of someone living to 100 years and the press descends wanting to know their ‘secrets’.
Older people often have that tendancy to sink into depression. They ‘feel’ useless, unloved, not a functioning part of society any more; forgotten. If you talk to someone who has this mindset you will hear how all their woes are because of other people. It is the government, the employers, the fact that the youth of today have no respect. The list goes on. When they get on that hobby horse of all that is wrong and insist on the crabby and grumpier side of life, no wonder they don’t get visitors! And another thing; the ‘Bus Pass’ is just that, a means of free transportation. It is not a licence for being rude and selfish!
If you find that after a few years of knitting and golf post retirement that you’ve had enough, turn your attentions to something new. Find a new career, start a small business or get a part time job, go back to college or take up volunteering, help other people. “I can’t take on a part time job. What about my arthritis/cateracts/dodgy hips.” “Go back to school! What do I want with education. I don’t need education where I’m going”. “Keeping fit. Why would I want to keep fit. I want to shorten the years here, not lengthen them. I’ve had enough, sure all my friends are dead!” Well with a new course or a keep fit programme you might just find that it helps some of your ailments and, who knows, you might even make new friends! Indeed a recent study dispelled the myth that all older women go off sex. What they found was that “among older women, the major factor for declining sexual activity was the lack of an appropriate partner”. Now you might meet one at the club, the keep fit class or college! Indeed for retired men it may be a new employment opportunity!
I am not denying the difficulties or the problems that exist for pensioners and I think we all loose out by neglecting their wisdom but they must also help themselves and definitely make the rest of their lives the best of their lives! No excuses.