Ageing Gracefully

by | Jan 19, 2024

It is said “Time and tide waits for no man”. Before you know, it’s time to hang your boots from an active work life.  While there is enough material available focussing on the financial thumb rules to help you arrive at the post retirement  financial well being, there is not much which helps you plan what to do with your time. I am going to attempt to share instances of people like you and me to point towards what one can do to try and make the most of the time you have by living life king size and at the same time, make your life count.

What Does ageing gracefully mean?
“Ageing gracefully” has largely been a word used to describe women who choose to grow older without undergoing any aesthetic procedures to help them maintain their looks. For some people, this may mean simply embracing the natural signs of aging.

However, when simply applied to a larger cross section, it could manifest as adding grace to your years by adding meaning to your life as you go about your life routine. Names of celebrities like Doris Day, Audrey Hepburn, Waheda Rehman and Amitabh Bacchan flash in an instance, in this context. Or in sports, take the instance when Martina Navratilova was once asked, “How do you maintain your focus, physique and sharp game even at the age of 43?” She gave a humble reply, “The ball doesn’t know how old I am.You need to stop yourself from stopping yourself.”

It is said every game in life is actually played on a 6 inch ground – the space between your two ears.We don’t live in bungalows, duplexes or flats. We live in our mind which is an unlimited area. Life is great when things are sorted and uncluttered there. Audrey Hepburn also put it very succinctly when she said  – “And the beauty of a woman, with passing years only grows!” 

Make your second innings count. While the first 20 years are spent living the life that your parents wanted you to live, the next 40 years usually are spent living the life your family wants you to. So you owe it to yourself to take charge of your life for the rest. 
Find a purpose. The biggest challenge is to Stay relevant. Take care not to give unsolicited advice. Keep on evolving. Since everyone will have his/her  own schedule which may or may not be compatible with yours, learn to make friends with yourself and take up activities such as origami or writing your experiences or reading or practicing yoga or cooking etc. Stay active – don’t become a couch potato.

Money is not always necessary
You need not be a Bill Gates or Warren Buffet to give away a fortune to make an impact. Time at hand becomes your most valuable  resource which you can allocate, which others don’t have but value . 

Pick up things that you always wanted to do. It could be some social good like my father who is passionate about solving the traffic problem by focusing holistically on urban transportation. So much so that his NGO has become a GoTo Think Tank for BMC/ media to get expert opinion on  transportation related matters. I know of a few who after a successful corporate career has either dedicated himself to  an NGO which focuses on de-addiction amongst the youth or is working on urban farming to grow productive plants right at home in your balcony via de-composting kitchen waste or has taken up teaching municipal school kids maths via origami or is engaged in empowering women by providing a platform which teaches them enterprise skills such as stitching, knitting or set up anganwadi for migrant labourers or even started an adoption centre. 

Or it could be learning skills that you admire in others and didn’t have the time or money to pursue or focus on your passion be it travel, photography , music, cooking, painting, social causes, giving it back to the society by contributing time for the cause, teaching, mentoring and so on. It can also be as simple as making yourself available for your family to help them raise grandkids while they go about the daily work life.  It all boils down to doing something meaningful. Something that brings meaning not just to yourself but also to others who matter to you. 

However, it is important to remember that there will come a time when you may have to retire even from your second calling either due to your health or those for whom you were caring have grown up and flown away. You will need to be ready to reinvent yourself and embrace hobbies that don’t require you to be dependent on others – be it your friends or even your own family. Some such evergreen hobbies are reading, writing, music – the medium for these might change from pen and paper or radio to an electronic or digital medium but they will always be with you.

Be the change – Even simply assisting in educating your house help can be of immense satisfaction as you can see the local impact/ transformation it can bring through the 3 Rs viz Reading , wRiting and aRithmatic which are the build blocks for life skills.

“It’s not about adding  years to your life but life to your years “:-

Health is Wealth – keeping a healthy and active lifestyle helps enrich your life by making it possible to travel to enjoy ground zero experiences. It helps you to be able to step out to be where you want to be and/or be with whom you want to be with. You can do things on your own terms without having any dependency on medical sign offs etc.  By keeping fit, I know guys who have taken to travelling far off places for hobbies like marathoning (Leh Marathon, Ironman challenge), birding, mountaineering, skydiving, scuba diving, skiing et al. Keep company with younger age groups e.g training group or gymming helps to connect with younger people. Similarly my neighbour who is a clinical psychologist, in her late 80s, as she continues to be active and independent has made friends across

Neville @72 completed Matheran 25 K Enduarathon on a hilly terrain

age groups. Being with youngsters not only helps build perspective but also ensures help is at hand to deal with technology eg mobile phones video calling , virtual meetings, casting on smart TV. And you always have your wisdom that you can share by way of reciprocation. 

My wife, Rupali’s basketball coach lived a very active life, coaching/ playing basketball with kids young enough to be his grandchildren, till the age of 78 right till the day he was admitted to the hospital. Another much talked about role model is celebrity Milind Soman’s mother. She at the age of around 80+ is still seen everyday in the morning taking rounds of Shivaji Park draped very gracefully in her trademark saree. It’s about enjoying the journey rather than reaching the destination.

How does one go about planning for it?
One of the challenges one is likely to face is the fact that once you are done with your work life, your key reason to- wake up every morning and look forward to something all of a sudden just vanishes; which is likely to give a sense of emptiness. From an active or a hyper active lifestyle, you need to come to terms with the slower pace of life. 

Something to think about before its too late!

To overcome this,  one way is to develop an expertise by which you don’t need to chase opportunity but people seek you for your expertise- (Click on the link here to read more . 

On retirement you need to adjust to the new normal

Another way is to set a goal for your retirement and then work backwards. One of my family friends had set a goal to retire by 40. He planned such that on his 40th birthday he put in his papers and decided to pursue his passion for writing. He joined a creative writing class in London and since then has set himself a discipline of writing min. 3-4 hours everyday. He writes fluently in English as well as Marathi. His debut publication a book in Marathi titled “Touching the 50 years milestone” won a prestigious state award. Besides this since he was posted in Russia, he has become the GoTo person as an interpreter for business delegations going to Russia or visiting India from Russia.

A batchmate of mine has taken to writing children’s stories and screenplay for Hindi films (Shakuntala Devi). Another has supported an urban walking tours initiative – Khaki tours which amongst many other initiatives also arranges for tours that take you through the downtown heritage precincts areas in Mumbai on foot while the tour guide narrates the historical significance. Yet another has launched SenOcare an initiative to provide personalised care to senior citizens by providing all sort of assistance right at their home through “Care Managers”. I for one, have become a founding trustee of Cricketers’ Foundation which supports those who toil behind the scenes such as groundsman, scorers, coaches, umpires etc who have retired after providing yeoman’s service to the game. I have also started posting my blogs (like this one) to capture life’s experiences so far on Musing of a 50 Something. Another friend of mine has taken to karaoke singing on Smule like fish to water.  I do feel that any activity which is devoid of dependency, will ensure continuity irrespective of any unforeseen life events, ensuring general well- being is maintained. 

Event management companies are leveraging the young at heart empty nesters who have resources at their disposal to organise events like the 50 plus World Cup or friendly matches with overseas clubs wherein you get to play at hallowed places like The Lords Cricket ground or the MCG etc; for the photography enthusiast a wildlife safari or birding excursions. 

As I wind up , one word of caution will be apt here. Come what may, one should not  get swayed by the far off dream land with everything under the sun amenities thrown in which most of the real estate developers promise, under the guise of retirement homes. What you need as your age advances is to be close to people who matter to you (be it family and/or friends) and be within reach for them to come over once in  a while and spend time with you. 

Depending on what route you decide to take, you need to start looking forward to ageing gracefully. To quote Brad Pitt:- 

It is only you who can make Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote a reality.

On a lighter note, another reason to look forward to getting ahead of others in age is that there is no peer pressure:-

Anytime is a good time and it’s never too early to start working towards how you would like to age gracefully. For inspiration just look around and you will find many who have found their own answer to this riddle and are still enjoying their journey. Here’s wishing that you find your path early to the ageing gracefully riddle. Cheers !

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