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Staying happy after retirement

People die not because of illness or injury — they die because they simply lose the will to live

Advances in geriatric care have prolonged the lives of senior citizens but many of them seem to be ruing this fact. The truth is that family members find it difficult to take care of them and they increasingly experience a sense of isolation and despondence. After a frenetic work pace extending to close to 35 and 40 years that saps one’s energy, individuals often look forward to retirement to enjoy a relaxed and peaceful life.

But after retirement, they capitulate to a routine and humdrum life. If the elderly are confined to their home due to mobility issues, then this can become a bane.

A renowned Hindi story tells us about a stationmaster who gets an extension after retirement. The man is so excited to be home he even rejects the offer for extension. His family has got used to a life without him, while he has been away for so many years. So, when he returns home, he feels sidelined and soon enough he realises that he is considered more of an intrusion in the lives of his family members. Curiously enough, his wife chides him for making unreasonable demands, and asks him to help in the household errands. After thinking for a while, the stationmaster decides to accept the extension and he leaves home once again. The happiness on the faces of his family members assures him that he has taken the right decision.

Such a glum scenario is one of the reasons old-age homes have mushroomed across India. When senior citizens are treated like a liability after their assets (home, lifelong earnings, savings, etc) are siphoned off by their progeny, they get hurt by such a cavalier attitude and realise that they have nowhere to go.

People die not because of illness or injury, they die because they simply lose the will to live. Many senior citizens resent the fact that debilitating illnesses have made them dependent on others and they wait for the final denouement. This mental agony adds to their cup of woes. Often they need psychological counselling — but they are afraid to say so for fear of being ostracised. The sagacious of the lot realise that retirement is another phase of life that heralds a new beginning in life — it is the freedom to do things that one loves that enlivens the spirit and keeps one going.

It is important for family members to empathise with senior citizens (parents, grandparents) and make them feel wanted. A regular conversation with them will help alleviate the huge load that they often carry within their hearts. Many senior citizens will be more than happy to walk down memory lane and regale you with incidents from a bygone era. Often children expect their parents to be more understanding of the challenges that they face, but old habits die hard. Parents seldom change. Children have to change their approach. It is a frustrating experience to handle adamant and recalcitrant parents who are unwilling to listen to or understand any sagely advice that is in their interest.

Many individuals struggle to communicate their opinions to their parents for fear of hurting them, but it is better to keep communication channels open with parents. On the flip side, there are individuals who are aggressive in their communication and hurt their parents with harsh words. Maintaining a salubrious climate at home is essential for harmony and peace.

Leaving senior citizens idle can often be a death knell for them. As we all know, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. Smaller tasks can be assigned to them. Their grandchildren can be encouraged to sit and listen to their stories. The time the youngsters spend watching inane stuff on the idiot box can be severely curtailed. Senior citizens who are mobile can not only help in household errands willingly but they can also take up part-time work — the business world needs to leverage this opportunity. They can also take up writing as an alternative career.

In a digital world that is marked by increasing entropy — chaos, risk and uncertainty — the interests of senior citizens need to be protected. Those senior citizens who do not have children are subject to greater abuse. They get cheated of their assets. There are also exceptional cases when children cause irreparable hurt to their parents’ psyche. The trick is to ensure that senior citizens are engaged in some activity or other.

Generation X will retire in a few more years. It is a warning signal for them that they have to plan their life after retirement in an intelligent manner and take care of their health. Retirement is all about opening a new innings in one’s life. While embracing it with open arms, it is important to stay active, alert and happy.

gvenkatesh69@gmail.com

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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 7:09:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/staying-happy-after-retirement/article31010064.ece

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