My friend Geraldine recently celebrated her 83rd birthday. I phoned to congratulate her on reaching this milestone. In the past, she has invited her friends for a morning tea to celebrate this annual event, but having recently moved to a new senior residence she has abandoned this routine. We resorted to having a chat on the phone.
We were discussing our friendship of the past 40 odd years. We met many years ago at an Easter camp that was run by our local hiking club. We travelled together to the Alps on a two week hiking tour in Austria. We reminisced about the many local trails we had hiked together. We had spent a month in Israel, where we participated in special volunteer program. In this program, people living in the diaspora can spend three weeks on an Israeli Army Base getting to know the country and its people. Simultaneously they work as temporary members of the Israeli Defence Force, thus playing a small part in the country’s security.
Geraldine was telling me that despite the fact that she is considered one of the most technologically sophisticated in her Residential Home she was really put out when visiting her son in America. She does her own internet banking, and regularly uses an ATM. However she was unable to begin to master the new systems she found in the States when she visited her son last year. She expressed her feelings of unfairness. She wanted to put a new app on her 5 year old ipad but was unable to download the software to her out of date device. Her laptop of 10 years is unable to cope with the latest upgrades. “It’s not fair,” she proclaimed, “How do they expect people like me to manage if they keep changing these things?”
Into the Future
If this is how an 83 year old is feeling in 2019, then how are people of a similar age going to feel 30 years from now? By that time, technology will be changing even faster than today. Each year the speed of change in the field of communications is accelerated. I feel that people who are about to retire need to retain their capacity to keep up with the ever changing demands of technology. Senior people need to maintain a positive attitude to learning new concepts. The should be aware that our previous skills sets will not equip us for the future environment.
And, Another Friend
I was chatting to another friend who is a retired librarian. She has a wide knowledge of literature and has been a leader in her local book club for many years. When I saw Maria recently, I asked her what she was finding interesting in the contemporary world of literature. I enquired whether she was enjoying an author whom I admire. “Oh yes,” of course,” she responded when I questioned her on the work of Yuval Noah Harari, “I have read all his books, although I did find his second one Homo Deus somewhat challenging.” I decided to follow up with, “And, do you maybe read the blogs of Maria Popova. She is someone whose work I respect. She has the ability to synthesise knowledge on such a wide range of contemporary psychological and philosophical issues.” “No,” she said, somewhat condescendingly, “I do not have enough time to read blogs.” “Oh dear,” I thought, “It is clear we have some different values regarding the source of useful information.”
I see an interesting parallel. Some people live in a country and never learn the primary official language of their adopted home. Then, others have a negative attitude toward technological change.
We are not all going to be using all the opportunities presented by social media, or all the potential apps which are available for download. However, I do consider it a disadvantage to cut oneself off from the reading of all the personal, anecdotal, and contemporary perspectives to be discovered by reading blogs.
My Potential Contribution
I am working hard to develop an online course specifically targeting people nearing their retirement. I plan to share some of the habits I have been practising for most of my life.
Not just the benefits of daily and ongoing exercise, but the necessity of developing a routine that includes both walking and more robust activities. I believe potential retirees need to continue to learn new skills. They should continuously set themselves everyday cognitive challenges. They need to be in a position to take advantages of the fresh possibilities which become available.
An awareness of the many ways to keep the mind active will become critically relevant. Watching passive entertainment on the TV screen or playing games on the phone do not qualify.
Furthermore, I believe an ability to practice the techniques of mindfulness and meditation have become a pre-requisite for maintaining emotional equilibrium. These skills assist us in processing new experiences, objectively and healthily. Allow us to develop our emotional resilience.
I hope you will be following me as I develop my online course and share my life experiences. I aim to retain my curiosity as an octogenarian who remains intrigued by the up-to-the-minute opportunities which become available day by day.