Who says you’re too old?
I’m a fervent believer in lifelong learning, although I don’t think that it has to be as grandiose as learning a new language or taking up Thai cooking.
But the opposite to that is the vile phrase “set in your ways” which is applied to anybody over a certain age and suggests that whomever you are, whatever you do, there is no expectation, desire or necessity to change
I can’t think of a statement more depressing!
So if you’ve eaten donuts all of your life and can hardly get out of the chair at 50, then that’s the way it’s going to be until you catch your last bus?
Always wanted to be better at maths? Well what’s the point as you’re now too old to be an economist.
If you’ve lived with some unpleasant beliefs around people of colour, no need to rethink because you’re almost dead!
People in the UK live, on average, until they’re 81. If middle age (another horrible phrase) is pinned at 45, that means 36 years living in a moribund state. That’s in line with a punishment for the most heinous crime.
My parents are an interesting example.
Dad was always a sociable, lively sort with a quick brain (albeit I haven’t always been keen on the thoughts generated by that brain) and an absolute passion for sport and managing football teams.
By the time his mid fifties dawned, he didn’t feel able to drive the distances that were required to manage the team. Understandable.
But rather than find another more local team to be involved with, or find a new pursuit altogether, his slump began. And his aging process accelerated rapidly.
Compounded by the death of his siblings, I also suspect that depression became a companion, although being male and from a certain era he would have considered it weak to acknowledge this. But watching someone who was giving Peter Pan a run for his money up until mid life, but so quickly grow old physically and mentally in later life, is sad. And there could have been another way.
The snag was that “the other way” called for personal engagement, and whereas in his forties age was just a number, beyond 50 the date on his birth certificate increasingly determined how life was to be lived. And he could lean on that phrase associated with his increasing years – “I’m set in my ways”.
My mother could not be more different.
Whereas my father has dodged any illness other than the common cold, my mother has survived cancer and a severely fractured foot in recent years, and yet her inability to sit still for even half an hour is a constant cause of irritation to my father.
She has maintained an active life with all manner of clubs and associations, she itches to get into her garden when the weather allows, and she enjoys a small but vibrant circle of friends.
Frequently she’s joined me on a five mile hike through the forest, albeit at a bit of a slower pace, but by the end she’s nothing more than a little tired.
In their case the difference between the two is less about deliberate decisions and more about personality, but the illustration of how those two lifestyles impact on the aging process is undeniable.
Nahida Abden is a personal trainer. Her strength and fitness level is impressive and she focuses on women, not only to encourage them on their fitness journey, but also to help them with self esteem.
She’s 88. She clearly didn’t get the memo about being “set in your ways”.
I’m not suggesting that everyone can be a Nahida, because she is clearly exceptional. But listen to the ageist nonsense of being set in your ways, allow your date of birth to get you off the hook when it come to re-evaluating your views, and quote your age as an excuse when you’re invited to do something out of your comfort zone, and that cab will only take you in one direction. No matter how much you dislike the view along the way.
The date of retirement, certainly for those dependent upon a state pension, is being pushed further into the distance. It’s not absurd to assume that people will have to work until they’re 70 in years to come, although that’s not to say it’s right.
But society must shift towards utilizing the potential of all individuals, no matter their age, and to encourage the idea of youthfulness rather than the idea that once you’re 50 it’s time to wind down.
Even if you you’re not concerned with an holistic approach to individuals, then it makes more economic sense as it will keep people out of hospital and social care at the very least!
And think about the alternative – listening to Jeremy Vine every day. A sure way to premature fossilisation!