Life begins at 60

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

Retirement is now another phase that can be added to the seven ages of Man that Shakespeare wrote about. Its concept has changed radically, considering that medical science has added years and health to life.

Today people don’t ‘retire’ in the conventional sense of withdrawing from active life to wait for the inevitable end. Most people remain as active in their later years as they have been in any of their other ‘ages’. But the nature and intensity of their activities change. If there is one word I can use to describe this phase of life, it is ‘liberated’.

From what? Drudgery of routine work, stress of imposed deadlines, enforced social and sartorial conventions one never really cared about and, above all, a lifestyle that makes you a creature of professionalism. This feeling of liberation should enable one to opt for activities one really enjoys.

A leading gynaecologist, whose role in uplifting women’s reproductive health has been immense, told me after she retired from service that she found herself to be busier than she ever was in her younger years. She is doing voluntary work that she finds satisfying and helps in health awareness programmes.

A former principal (one of the most popular) of the Habib Girls’ School in Karachi, Zubeida Dossal, has spent years on school boards using her experience to contribute to these institutions. She has also produced enlivening literature for children in her retirement years.

Amanat Hasan, my uncle, an engineer by profession, who retired several years ago after leading an extremely busy life, now has plenty to keep himself occupied with. He has converted a room into a workshop where he stocks a variety of tools imaginable to make interesting devices. At present he is working on a case to display a slide rule and a calculator which he says will carry the note: “Elegy on the demise… here lies in eternal abode a one time most powerful tool of engineers.” It is intended to demonstrate the evolution of processes and devices used for mathematical calculations down the ages. He should also add a model of the human brain and the abacus to his exhibits!

One could go on and on because men and women with creative minds have filled their retirement years with interesting activities. A few that may be mentioned are: writing one’s genealogy—making family trees to trace one’s roots for the benefit of one’s progeny, reading books, gardening, painting, writing, quilting, carpentry, making jigsaws (the massive sized ones that take months to complete), aerobics and walking in groups and babysitting for their third generation (men are also taking to this and enjoying it too).

These ideas should provide food for thought. However, it is important that a person wanting to enjoy the eighth age (actually it will chronologically be the seventh in Shakespeare’s scheme of things) must have planned for it in his youth. He must be able to sustain a modest lifestyle (quite a challenge in a volatile economy like Pakistan’s) and should have kept an eye on the future when learning new skills and choosing hobbies.

Even if he has missed the bus he doesn’t have to despair. He can start learning something—a language, playing a musical instrument, art, and so on—in his ‘retirement’ years. Neurologists say learning a new skill is the best way to exercise your brain.

Hasan shared with me the secret of his happiness in his day-to-day life. Have “something to look forward to”. He begins his day with plans of what he will do. “Thus I start an activity with fresh enthusiasm and enjoy it.”

It would increase the choices available if organisations were to institutionalise voluntary services so that their performance is optimised by volunteers. Short courses to teach a skill or acquire knowledge would also serve a useful purpose for those wishing to learn a skill in their twilight years.

6 thoughts on “Life begins at 60

  1. The problem with old age is that man becomes essentially eccentric and a prisoner of his own perspective of world – a world that has changed immensely in the last quarter century of his life during which he grew from a prime age of twenty five or thirty five to sixty or seventy five.

    Result; a cynic and conservative authority haunting the young and hindering the progress and enforcing the morality that has long obsolete. The problem multiplies when old people take solace of religion.

    So better prefer to die young, sudden, and working, and laughing – leaving a good looking corpse. Retirement ? No way ! The illusionary concepts of retired and having great time with grandchildren, such as among closing scenes of Godfather when Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) died playing with his grandson, are the part of fiction and art.

    1. I don't deny many of the facts you have pointed out, but they are not the universal truth. You must have read about Fauja Singh who is 100 years old. He ran the Toronto marathon n Sunday and is now in the Guiness Book of Records as the first 100 years old to run the 26,2 mile race. He looks healthy. So you have to look after your diet and exercise to make a handsome corpse irrespective of the age you die at.

      1. Zubeida I would like to inform the correct status about Fauja Singh. Fauja Singh's feat is worth for Guinness Book of Records but he has been denied over his Date of Birth. Authorities has demanded a Certificate and have rejected his PASSPORT on terming it as a Supporting Document. He was born in 1911 and that time British were ruling us and at that time there was no system of DATE OF BIRTH Certificate.

        Anyhow but for the masses (including yourself) Fauja Singh is very much in Guinness Book of Records. Even many person above 40 can not think to run for 10 Kms.

  2. " Fauja Singh who is 100 years old. He ran the Toronto marathon n Sunday "

    Fauja Singh is lucky ______every one has a different physical constitution. I used to run with my dogs 5+ km per day and 10kms every 15 days ( Sundays). That continued till the age of 62_____after that the knees can not take the physical stress of high impact , while one runs.
    At 71+ , today , brisk indoor walking is possible______in moderation. If not , one limps for the rest of the day___a bad left knee !!!

    One factor is very helpful : * getting involved in activities with teenagers*

  3. there is no such thing as retirement for a senior barrister-in 1985 i went for my first umra-in my first chakkar-my better- half told me to write on my card the names of her relatives for prayer-in the third chakkar she said 'you have a very bad pathan habit -you do not forgive-so pray that you can forgive'so in the third chukkar of the kaaba i followed her advice-i also prayed 'o allah as a young man i have taken part in the pakistan movement -give me another objective;-so when i returned syed munawar hasan came and said 'the mujahdeen leaders know nothing about foreign policy-can you advise them'-i soon realized that they will accept my advice if i go for jihaad-so i did and wrote an article on it my aligarh friend philip talbot then under secretary state in usa had it published in my second visit to kabul on ahmed shah masud's invitation i had a quarrel with prof rabbani-ahmed shah masud wanted him to take me to pakistan with him to negotiate with pakistan on behalf of afghanistan-prof rabbani phoned me but did not take me to pakistan-so i was angry-so a group of ulema came and asked me to forgive prof rabbani-i told them in spite of my prayers in mecca i still can not forgive .so zubeida begum undertake some thing monumental as i did.

  4. You have rightly said RETIREMENT word should be read as LIBERATED. Retirement from Work Place only shifts one's working field and new set of responsibilities comes in. Here are some interesting aspects (though may not match what you already discussed) out of personal and others experiences:

    a) A relative who was about to retire from Govt Job and planned to live without any self-earned money. He lost his only son who was earning a handsome amount. After retirement he was forced to join as employee in Private Sector.

    b. One of ex-employer was a technical office in a Govt Training College at Ludhiana. He retired in a very calm atmosphere but internally very sad. By luck he was offered a job as freelancer by a technical (chemical) comppany jointly owned by Germany-British-Indian and he always termed as a GOLDEN ERA of his working life.

    c. BAGHBAN a Bollywood Film also deals with this subject and says much about GOOD LUCK after retirement.

    d. Even myself (+61 years) working in private sector at Delhi and is much better than that up to age of 60.

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