How to Grow Old the Right Way Up

Saturday 22nd March 2014


My blog today, is a bit longer than usual. It is an article that was published in the Banbury Magazine in 2007 and that I consider very relevant to these series. It also relates to an idea I brushed upon last week: Are we making a living? Making a dying? Or much better in my view, is our life in the making, as all of our lives are until the last second of our existence?

It is also a true story. Only a few details have been altered, simply because I didn’t remember them exactly. I hope you enjoy it.

Making a Living or a Life in the Making?


It was April, spring, bright and hopeful. So was my dancing partner.

We were jumping to the manic rhythms of a fast Milonga – one of the many derivations, declinations and inclinations of Tango.

My dancing partner’s spirited feet didn’t quite match his white hair or his many wrinkles, but they matched, indeed, the glint in his sparkling blue eyes and the joyful mood he was in, despite being a beginner as he confessed.

As the workshop ended and we stopped to have tea, my husband and I happened to sit opposite my cheerful dancing partner, and another white haired fellow attending the same weekend of workshops.

After a couple of minutes, it was pretty obvious to us that there were a striking number of similarities and differences between the two older men: they were both white haired, blue eyed, rather handsome, slender, with good posture, and they both looked healthy.

However, my dancing partner looked as fresh as a fifteen year old on his first outings, all the world opened in front of him with so many attractive ladies offering themselves to dance with him like flowers on verandas. Actually there was an enormous difference between him and most fifteen year olds I know: he was genuinely full of life and happiness but more than anything he was full of that unselfconscious confidence that only age’s wisdom and a healthy ‘couldn’t care less about what other people think’ attitude brings sometimes to the deserving ones.

The other gentleman, once one got over the funereal wistfulness that pervaded all his countenance, was physically just as attractive as the first one, with a still supple body, and poise and elegance not born out of his own social background, but of a lifetime of good health and particularly, of good posture.

Dying to find out how they could be so similar and so different, I started with the obvious: their professions: they both had retired the year before. The coincidence created an interesting dialogue between the two men that kept my husband and me, fascinated during the course of the meal.

Both had worked from nine to five, for forty years of their lives.

The cheerful man had retired with a small pension. He had to top it up fixing computers and doing all sorts of odd jobs, in order to survive and to be able to do all the leisure activities he was interested in.

The sad man had enough income to do, pretty much, whatever he wanted.

For the cheerful man, in his own words, ‘life’ had ‘started when he retired’. He had found himself still full of energy, healthy enough to enjoy all the leisure and pleasure, and with enough time in his hands to develop his personal interests, which his work and family had prevented him from pursuing before. He was attending Spanish evening classes, he was teaching himself Geography and he had started a map collection. He was a very keen reader and, he was learning to dance Tango and Salsa. Days for him didn’t have enough hours to fit the innumerable things that attracted his attention. His only small regret was that he wished he had retired with a better pension, so he wouldn’t have to worry about making extra money to pay for the extra activities.

Our sad man felt, in his own words that ‘life’ had ‘ended when he stopped working’. He couldn’t work out what to do with his time. He had plenty of money to travel or to do nearly anything he wanted, but he couldn’t face doing any of it alone. The same as our cheerful man, he was divorced and lived on his own. He wasn’t very interested in reading. He had never had any hobbies, and he couldn’t even consider that he could start having one this late in life. He was –he sadly confessed- only waiting to die! He had been convinced by a friend to start Tango the year before, but he felt, being this old, he could never learn!

I found the experience very interesting and it made me realize that:

  •  Our perception of events is what dictates the choices we make.
  •  Retiring from making a living can sometimes mean the real start of making our own life as we would like it to be.
  • It is never too late to learn, to love, to enjoy and, let alone, to be happy.

Many examples come to mind; not least the recent best-selling writer who got his first novel published age 91! Or my old friend, Phillip, joyfully getting the best grades in his English Literature degree, age 67, well ahead of his fellow students, who were a few decades younger than him.

What are your own thoughts about retirement? Will it mean the start of a new life, a new career, new relationships, new hopes and prospects? I do hope so.

Happy retirement!



0. This is a purely fictional story. Any similarity with any person, family or circumstances is mere coincidence.

1. I am not a health practitioner of any description. The tips I will be giving are directly related to my personal experience and my experiences with family and friends who seem to have benefited from those tips. Please if in doubt, always consult a qualified practitioner.
2. With their permission I will be mentioning in these pages the names and expertise of many people who have contributed to my current state of health. Whenever possible and relevant, I will be leading you to their websites or giving you a direct contact if you ask me. Nobody is or will be paying me or rewarding me in any way for doing so. I will be doing it because they are wonderful practitioners, to whom I owe much and to whom I am very happy to direct people to, for the benefit of all. I don’t and won’t recommend anyone whose help and expertise I haven’t experienced and benefited from directly.