I just finished an online course about the strategies for a successful aging.
I’m over fifty, after all, and without a hope in hell for a pension and a healthy retirement, I will have to keep myself in working order until the day I die.
Better start early.
The course was an absolute wonder – lots of ideas, lots of suggestion,m some great interactions with my fellow students, and at least one concept I’ll take away and keep close at hand: the longevity dividend.
The idea is simple – as we grow old, we accumulate experience, what one of the teachers described as “crystallized intelligence”.
We already had a lot of good ideas.
Couple that with a good culture and an agile mind, and we are already halfway to the solution of any problem that might present itself to us.
The trick is remaining creative.
This made me think about two very different things.
The first is the number of “old” characters in the books I grew up with. Allan Quatermain is a good example, but all the great heroes of my childhood were in their forties or older, and this did not cause any particular shock to me.
This is probably the reason why I am leery of the teenage heroes of current books and movies, whose existence is justified by the fact that the younger readers or viewers can’t connect or identify with them otherwise.
Because of this youth-obsessed approach, older characters are today relegated to the roles of adversaries (evil old men) or mentors (wise old men), or maybe comedy relief (foolish old men).
The idea that beyond forty lays a wasteland of physical decay and growing senility is dangerous, because people believes what they read in stories. We believe in them.
Narratives are powerful, and when everybody expects you to be childish and weak, and treats like that, you start believing and behaving like that.
I saw active, smart, intelligent men regress to the sort of foot-shuffling, forgetful wrecks within one year of their retirement, because they expected it should be like that.
And this also led me to think to the local retirement home, the only business in Castelnuovo Belbo – where senior citizens trade their hard-earned retirement money for the opportunity of sitting 12 hours a day in front of a TV screen, watching soulless talk shows while wearing a diaper and eating apple puree.
What a horrid, hellish way of finishing one’s life.
And excepting the obvious cases of dementia, the others are actually being brain-killed by a complacent system: don’t do nothing, you couldn’t anyway, sit here and enjoy this show full of people gossiping.
A scene out of Huxley.
Giving them a puzzle, or a deck of playing cards, or books, would be enough to help them keep a fresh mind. Let them talk among themselves, let them teach what they know to younger people.
But they are old. Everybody expects them to be useless.
What a waste!
I will not die like that.
This is a promise I made myself today.