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Posted by portugalpress on May 03, 2018

This is the sixth and last in our series of articles exploring how people in the near, at or over 80 age group think and feel about getting older. The first five articles have generated a most interesting response, both from contributors themselves and from people commenting on the contributions printed.

If you are in our age group, I am sure you have input that would be interesting, and helpful, to others. If you would like to either contribute yourself or comment on contributions already printed, please email your thoughts to me at larry.hampton.37@gmail.com. I will acknowledge every contribution and send a final compilation to all contributors. Your replies will be kept anonymous, because I want your frank, honest and completely open views. I only need to know your gender, nationality and area of residence (presumably, the Algarve).

A final selection of responses to date follows:

A German woman living in the Algarve

I have waited for an inspiration, as “old age” is a lovely subject and I fit snugly into the stipulated age group. Should I write a poem? Should I delve into history? Should I go online and google to see what’s out there on this subject?

Old age, aka as “senescence”, sounds impressive and benign. “Twilight years”, how poetic! “The end of a life cycle” – well, whose life cycle? Our planet’s?

And then, “The final stage of a normal life span …” – OMG, I thought, and it continued, “… now starts at 74.” I looked to see whether this amazing conclusion came from the insipid Wikipedia. No, the source was a statistical finding of serious geriatric research. This was still a daunting verdict. I am 78, so am I well into my “final stage”?

The initial hardships for a girl born at the horrific dawn of WWII, with its disastrous dislocations and privations, showed me the strength and value of exceptional parents. This became an enviable fortification during depressing teenage years and laid the firm foundation for a successful professional life of change, challenge and diversity.

For me, life has always been a learning curve and, having been a learner all my life, I found more and more curiosity in me as I went along. It never was stilled. Bringing up three children taught me invaluable lessons – who is ever born to be a mother?

At a later stage, I would find that I graduated from those study years with flying colours – abstract hopes had empirical results and now I think bringing up my trio to become successful people is my crowning glory.

There were two weddings, with a divorce in between … and all that jazz. In the battles, first with hormones and then finally without, life ticked over and another important lesson was learned: successful partnerships are nothing but a sum of many compromises.

Now I have arrived at a stage in my life which some may call “old age”. I, however, call these years my “golden years” and I intend to make the best use of them. More things seem to make sense now, and I have more and more trust and confidence in the natural evolution of our civilization. I am convinced that some researcher will soon find the solution to healing cancer, for example. The solutions are “out there”; all it takes is for someone to find and harness the right one.

I have so much more time for myself now than ever before, and while I am not waiting to be invited to take the next big step for mankind, I keenly watch and mainly enjoy the goings-on and am daily grateful for the bounty that has come my way. For creature comfort I have a cuddly husband who likes my cooking. The other life-long companion and the greatest blessing in my “golden years” is music – thank God and Beethoven for that.

An American man living in California

Like many, we are dealing with what becomes of us as we age. “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but at our age today is a gift...that is why it is called the present”.

We always think of ourselves as indestructible. How did we go from 17 to 80 so quickly? Now that we are in our 80s, we have lost much of our abilities. The hardest for me was the loss of performance.  The desire is there but the ability is not. Eyes are not as good, hearing is beginning to fail and it is harder to tie my shoes. What hurts most is the loss of friends.

Looking forward I find myself keeping very busy with golf, travel, reading, enjoying a good glass of fine wine and never regretting a moment I have lived. I like to think we will live to 100, but I hope not if we don’t have our mind. My advice is to live everyday with gusto, love our family and friends, and, above all, be optimistic. What will be will be.

An English man living in Devon

Tempted at first to save time and merely give the stock Duke of Edinburgh reply, “just get on with it”, but that would be completely inadequate. Now, in what has been described as “the springtime of senility”, I need to express feelings of daily contentment and gratitude for the manifold benefits, interests and enjoyment of unanticipated longevity, provided within the private and personal parameters of family, friends and faith.

We, Elders, are pioneers in territory larger than ever known before. For the next generation, it presumably won’t be so unexpected, thus affording them the opportunity of a more structured retirement process, enabling those who wish to use their time and talents more effectively for the common good. 

No doubt many of our group have been and still are involved in various charitable, cultural and political activities on an individual, ad hoc basis. What I have in mind, without in any way diminishing that sort of social contribution, is that in addition it could be encouraged and organised on a more formalised basis. I wonder if (say) 20 hours a week for 3-5 years of National Voluntary Service would give a future generation, newly retired at (say) 70, a valued sense of purpose, as well as helping their local community.

Do I hear howls of protest, cries of scorn? Well OK, but I would at least finally suggest the new horizon we are now currently blessed with does require a changed mind-set and a change of pace. 

The cult of comparative youth can be overdone (e.g. both Blair and Cameron were too young and inexperienced for Number 10) and the “elderly” need to be regarded more positively: they contribute significantly to cultural tourism, to the catering and leisure industries and especially to the voluntary sector – and in the future they will surely have the potential to contribute even more.

As Edith Piaf famously sang
– “Je ne regrette rien”

By Larry Hampton

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