Not the retiring sort
By guest blogger JEF SMITH
In the unlikely event of the queen’s ever asking me, “And what do you do?”, I will have a problem; I can’t bring myself to use the word “retired”.
Retirement reeks of the now largely discredited disengagement theory, which argued that ageing was an inevitable, mutual withdrawal leading to decreasing interaction with others. That’s not at all how I feel. I used to make a joke of it by saying I was ‘re-tyred’, my engine refurbished, ready to fire on all cylinders, but it came to sound a bit forced. These days I tend to fall back on, “I’ve stopped full time work”, but that defines me by what I used to do, not what I am. “Pensioner” is of course even worse; surely I’m more than simply a recipient of unearned income. But what are the alternatives – professional older person, health service consumer, expert (by experience) on ageing? I am seriously open to suggestions. The description of establishments providing care and nursing for older people as “retirement homes’ is of course even sillier.
There was a time in the mid-twentieth century, when some fifty- or sixty-somethings stopped work, sold up, and went into a home. It was allegedly a welcome retreat from the burdens of running a household and a defence against loneliness, but such places have long gone out of fashion. Nor am I much attracted by “retirement communities”, “retirement villages” or retirement anything-else in fact. Getting older doesn’t have to be a withdrawal from life’s battles, not even a tactical retreat. For some of us, at least for some of the time, it’s an opportunity for fresh engagement.
So when our most famous nonagenarian poses her favoured small talk query, I could just fluff my opportunity; “Well, ma’am that’s a question that takes us to the heart of the issues facing an ageing society …”. But before I get to the meat of the matter, I horribly fear she’ll have moved on down the line.
- The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.