Guest Author: Col (R) Anil Alagh, Maverick in Love with Life. Gurgaon, India
Most senior citizens of our generations are unaware that COVID struck them between the 1990s to 2010 and NOT 2019. Surprised! Let me elucidate. It was in these 20 years or so that our tiny hatchlings, the apples of our eye, grew wings, wished to explore the distant land, sea and air, and we let them go. Some hatchlings flew away with our consent and blessings, others with our grudging goodbyes. But, they went!! Leaving our nests empty….taking their laughter, warmth, presence with them. We were isolated. Quarantined from a world we had nurtured for 20 years or more. Our Covid times had started.
With that as the preamble, some of us chose to become lonely brooding foggies….others made a wiser decision to celebrate a new freedom for ourselves. The essence of living is joy….and what is joy? We live in the fallacy that it comes from others….it doesn’t!!….it can only come from within and has to be created by one’s self. Some personal thoughts on how we can re-invent ourselves when age and our children overtake us, are shared….purely personal and hence not contestable:
- Joint Family. The days of huge families living amicably under one roof are over (not in the stupid TV soaps though). The Gen Y and the Gen N are born to live independently and have their own views and mind on personal and worldly relations and matters. Don’t contest that freedom of choice. They are not being uncaring or less respectful by choosing to stay independently. In fact you should encourage it, nurture it to remain positive, guide it when they need you. A happy child a 1000 kms away is much better than an angry suppressed one in the four walls of your house. A fortnight of holidays spent together as a family having fun, is better than a year of daily bickering and suppressed emotions lived together under one roof.
- Learn to enjoy your freedom. When was the last time you ate an ice cream or binged on something, which was not bought because your children liked it, but, because you fancied it when you were single or newly married. Go out and start re-living this new independence. It will bring great joy to you and your children. They want you happy too (much as you might feel they don’t care) and it will help them get rid of their “festival time” guilt of having left you alone. At least in 90% cases they will.
- Save up for a rainy day. Sure. Do that. But cut the crap of saving up for the children so that they can take a Scandinavian holiday on your money, after you kick the bucket. If you have done your duty as a good parent, they will work and earn enough to live happily. If they can’t, dependence on you and your “Will” will further destroy their self-esteem. So, enjoy your savings. Keep enough for a rainy day, never beg or borrow from your children, and foremost, never gift your house and livelihood to them in your lifetime. I do community service in an Old Age Home, believe me, half the abandoned senior citizens going through shit there, gifted everything to their kids in their life time, they were then found on the road during this life time.
- Hobbies. It is never too late to pick up one. Golf for the ones who can afford it, is the perfect blend of physical, emotional and mental exercise. Others can have their pool or card groups. Swimming, reading at the library, long walks with friends, writing memoirs, poetry, satire, all help keep sanity in place and loneliness away.
- The Plague and The Blessings. Avoid the plague. Count the blessings. Maintain 3 digit social distancing from folks who constantly give negative vibes about everything on earth. While some are perennial medical “farts” who talk of nothing other than ailments, new geriatric diseases, pills and more, others run down their own folks/community at the drop of a hat. Give them a “chill pill” and kick them out of your circle. Count your blessings. If destiny has given you enough to look after yourself, appreciate and enjoy it. If it hasn’t stop cribbing, it’s your own fault and destiny. The grass is actually never greener on the other side of the fence. If you can laugh, walk, eat without support at your age, you are truly blessed.
- Friends. You can either cough together or laugh together. The choice is yours to select an over-aged, grumpy, serious minded friends group or have an intermingled young and old, fun and frolic one. Age is never a bar to friendship. Choose some young company, Include some at least 5-10 years younger than you. Stay close to the old foggies who are mavericks. They ensure the spice in your lives.
- The Community Contact. With the children flown away and unable to be there for you due to time, distance and work commitments, only one category of people actually classify as your family. These are your friends and neighbors. Keep in touch. Reach out to each other. Visit and have tea together. Enjoy some occasional gossip. Keep a tab if someone is unwell or off the air for more than 48 hours. The community contact is an essential tool for our own well-being and happiness. Use it regularly.
- Company. You are grown up. Please avoid the blushes on this one. If single, whatever the reasons, look for company in the alternate sex. The emotional quotient of having a confidante of the opposite sex helps get things off your chest. It is balm for a lonely heart. I am not asking you to jump into bed….but do it if you wish….forget what people would say. The ones who cannot are the jealous ones who “say”. The real friends will feel happy and take your companion into their folds lovingly.
- Social Outreach. With so many grey hair or a bald pate on top, you have a world of knowledge, patience and human understanding inside you. Use it for some good. Adopt a charity. Go out and spend time in it. Use your financial and emotional stability or experiential knowledge to benefit others. Being a couch commentator on world affairs, etc. is passe. Get hands on with some social involvement. Not only will it extract 4-6 hours of your day in gainful pursuit, but give you huge emotional and personal satisfaction. It will keep you alive and ticking knowing that your presence and your vast knowledge still matter and you can still make a “difference” nurturing young minds or bringing solace to the disturbed ones. If animal friendly, seva in an animal shelter or gaushala to the best of your physical capability is also an option.
The choice to become self-condescending old dowagers or remain vibrant, active and “alive” humans is ours. Age is never a barrier. The heart and mind is. You had an attitude when young, get a new one if you lost it. Get bindaas. With one leg in the grave, live each day not just for yourself but for your other senior citizen friends and the environment. Remember nobody will give a damn 4 weeks after you are dead. In cases who didn’t like what I have written above, it will be less than 4 weeks. Learn to bug and needle people who mess with you. Cozy up to the ones you have your hearts on. At our age, dementia and deafness is a plausible excuse when some comments rebound. Enjoy that double D gift !!