Tag Archives: retirement

Old Age

I am handling old age pretty well. Yes, I know that some people would say that sixty-eight is “not old.” Some would tell me with reassuring certainty “age is just a number.” Like hell. At sixty-eight, I am not a young man, that’s for sure, and I am pretty sure that I no longer qualify for the category “middle-aged,” though possibly some might quibble.

I feel that I have entered the terminal bracket of “old age.” I don’t know when that happened, exactly. I’ve had a creeping suspicion for the last year or so, at least, that I was getting there. Well, I think I’m there now, and I’m doing okay.

Someone asked me recently whether I was enjoying retirement. Yes. What do you like most about it? How do you spend your time? I can never think of an impressive answer.

I know that old age is not the same thing as retirement and that some people who haven’t retired find themselves in the old age category. I chose to retire five years ago, and old age happened more recently, but that is a technicality. When people ask me now how I am enjoying retirement they might as well be asking how I am enjoying old age. What do I like most about old age? How do I spend my old-age time?

Well, I am enjoying old age so much I don’t want it to end.

I have been taking a mental inventory of the things that I do these days. It is not an impressive list, and I doubt that anyone would feel inspired by my example. Still, I feel that I am doing pretty well. To some extent, old age offers liberation from the desire to impress.

Exposing how I spend my time may serve some educational purpose for those in or near the “old age” category who want to feel they are doing pretty well. To that end, the less impressive what I do with my time the better for others, who may be doing more interesting things by comparison.

This inventory is no doubt incomplete, but it accounts for most of my old age time:

  • I have acquired the habit of taking a walk every day, unless the weather is crappy with rain. I walk about two miles. It is my primary form of physical exercise, along with a morning jaunt on the treadmill and a weekly yoga class. In summer, I go on bike rides.
  • I have more time to read books in my old age. Detective novels are a favorite (James Lee Burke, Ian Rankin, Walter Mosley, Karin Slaughter, Liza Marklund, John Harvey and Tony Hillerman, to name a few favorite authors). I also have read several epic biographies (Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin) and other books about history.
  • I read the local newspaper (old-fashioned print version) every morning. I also follow the news on NPR and PBS—on television and online—and other news programs, such as Meet the Press. Sometimes I search the Internet for more information, and I have written posts for this blog on political issues that I care about. (See the “tag cloud” in the left side-bar for links.)
  • I have been teaching myself Spanish for the last nine years or so, and I spend time every day practicing the language. From time to time on this blog, I post translations into Spanish of earlier English language posts. (See posts in the “Later, in Spanish” category.)
  • Aging in place—in my case, in the house where my wife and I have lived for more than two decades—means time spent cleaning, shopping, handling bills and bank accounts, doing yard work, making minor repairs and so forth. We have done several home remodeling projects (this year we are remodeling a bathroom), and we do a lot of the work ourselves.
  • We take turns cooking dinner, but there is time in my old age to take my turn more often.
  • We watch an hour or so of television on most nights. Because American network television programming is so dreadful, we use streaming services (Hulu, PBS and Acorn TV) and DVDs from Netflix (now DVD.com). We have particularly enjoyed several excellent Swedish drama series (The Bridge, Beck, Rebecka Martinsson).
  • I volunteer some of my time each week in various activities at a community theater and at the local Unitarian Universalist Church. I have been involved with the theater for thirty years and with the church for about five. Two years ago on this blog, I wrote about my most recent acting role at the theater in a post titled Becoming Neil.
  • We have traveled a little bit in the last five years. I have written about our travels on this blog: Savannah, New Orleans, Costa Rica and the American West.

I suppose the point here is that there is comfort in the humdrum. For me, if not for others of old age, doing well does not require doing a lot. But this is not to suggest that the key to old-age happiness is retreat, disengagement and idleness. Old age can be a time of quiet but heightened awareness. It is a time to strip away the need to figure things out so much.

My yoga teacher has a phrase that she uses to guide the class into savasana—the final pose of rest at the end of the class. The purpose of savasana—also inauspiciously but misleadingly called “corpse pose”—is to relax the body and the mind after a series of more challenging positions. The idea is not to go to sleep, but rather to remain fully conscious but completely relaxed, to allow thoughts to flow in and out of your mind while becoming aware of the quiet conscious moments between thoughts. As our teacher says, it is a time when you have nowhere to go, nothing to do, and absolutely no one you have to be.

It is, I think, an apt metaphor for old age.

Share This:

Hits: 218

Some other stuff for later,

  • 69
    In Remembering Anticipation, I talked about the first phase of retirement. Robert Atchley is generally credited with describing the unfolding of retirement as a series of phases. Atchley called the first phase “pre-retirement.” Because pre-retirement occurs before actual retirement begins, one is tempted to quibble whether it is a phase…
  • 67
    In 2010, Ameriprise Financial, a financial planning company, conducted the New Retirement Mindscape II study to investigate attitudes about retirement. The study, based on a telephone survey of adults in the United States between the ages of 40 and 75, updated an earlier study conducted in 2005 to determine whether…
  • 60
    The English version of this post—Optimal Living—was posted here on January 11, 2016. This Spanish translation is my own and may contain errors. I invite native speakers of the language to comment on my errors and to suggest corrections. Aquí está una traducción en español de Optimal Living. Por favor,…

In a Strange Land: Twelve

It seemed that I had lived my life outside the fold. I entered into exile that way, on my own and without a sense of belonging to any group of like-minded souls. It came as no surprise.

Still, the absence of kinship felt like a vacancy in my life—something missing, something empty. I thought I could get through exile without it, but I thought that “getting through” was not enough, not what it might be.

I could not remember ever feeling a sense of kinship. It had been characteristic of me to be on the outside, a loner. When I was a child, at least since I was about ten years old, I felt estranged from my own family. It was the same for me in school, and maybe it was that way because of my family experience. Aside from a small group of friends, I did not gravitate to any social group. In my working years, I learned to participate with others to the extent my job required some form of teamwork, but I was never close socially with my co-workers. Now years later in exile, I had lost contact with almost all of those few friends from school and work.

Lisea was my companion, but the contentment we shared in our little island home was of a different order than what something inside me was now urging me to find. By ourselves, we did not constitute a kinship. I thought that kinship had to be something outside of ourselves and, as dear and close as it was, outside of our companionship.

Kinship was even something deeper than community. Community represented a negotiated coexistence of groups that had no allegiance to each other beyond choosing to coexist. The essence of community was diversity bound by an unverbalized social compact.

But kinship represented something magnetic, something more profound than community—and more profound than the biology of families whose members were related in blood or in law.

I had not found my kinship, and I did not know where I belonged. I was searching for that place of attachment where the bonds would be natural and enduring. It was not a blood kinship that I sought but a kinship of place and ways of thinking about things.

Share This:

Hits: 43

Some other stuff for later,

  • 79
    There was no turning back from our exile. My life continued. Though living seemed optional, the alternative was complicated as much as it was inevitable. Did I live to avoid the complication of dying? There was more to it than that, I thought. Of course there was. But what was…
  • 79
    And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter. And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land. [Exodus 2:21-22] It was the same but different. There was…
  • 78
    There were benefits that came with my exile. Among the benefits was the freedom to go places. A strange incongruity was that the more I thought about going places, the more aware I became of my home and its importance to me. I wanted to go places. I wanted to…