By Roger Crombie, Eastbourne, England :
Not long after I’d been forced into retirement, I visited some very good friends in Canada that I hadn’t seen for a while. At one point, they asked what my plans were.
“I have no plans,” I said. “I’m done. I’m in my 60s. I have no job and no prospects. I’m done.”
My friends argued with me. Remonstrated, really. They told me how life begins at 60 and how age is no barrier to achievement and offered a raft of similar chocolate-box sentiments. Both are employed and, at that time, neither had yet turned 60. When I was their age, I would have agreed with them, but at my age — albeit just a couple of years older — I found their beliefs naïve.
Since then, others have advanced the same notions they were peddling. I hear phrases such as “Age is just a number” and “The only limit is your imagination” and so on. The retirement that society forces on all but the self-employed (who can stop when they feel like it) is not something people think will happen to them.
It happens only to the lucky ones, i.e. those of us who make it past 60 or 65. The good news is: you’re getting old. The bad news: society has no further interest in you; you are largely seen as a waste of resources, at least in the West; and people largely ignore you.
There are exceptions, of course. Some retired people start their own businesses or websites (a tip of the hat to our glorious leader Bill Storie, who is my age and holds a completely different view of retirement). Such people travel around the world. They start working for charities. They find things to do.
No one who is still working finds things to do. Things to do find them.
I should stress that you get used to it. This wall of indifference towards older people hurt to begin with, when I first retired and lived in London, but now I take it as a given. Old people in the West are regarded as non-fare-paying passengers by those still playing the game. Their attitude is “What have you done for me lately?”.
I’m not saying that old age should mean sitting around doing nothing. I’m an advocate for hobbies, pastimes, walking, sex, even travelling — all the things people do to keep themselves from being bored. All I’m saying is that before retirement, one’s focus is outward: on work, on society, on socialising. After retirement, it’s inward, because the working world doesn’t give a hoot. You’re not paying the fare.
Maybe the reason I’m having such a good time in my passenger years is that I am a narcissist. If society won’t have me, I certainly will. Those fools have no idea what they’re missing. Ah, time for my medication. I’m over 60, so I must be on medication, right? See how easy it is to make assumptions?