Temperamentally unsuited to growing old | Young at Heart

To quote a Gilbert and Sullivan character: “I am temperamentally unsuited to growing old”. So said the character, and so say all of us as my friends sail cheerfully into older age but not yet old age – that is yet to come! 

We’re still refusing to acknowledge the passing of the years and the realisation that the 1950s, 60s, and 70s were the days of our youth, and that is now a long time ago. Conversation turns to hip replacements, stents, knee reconstructions, and still we keep pedalling on, travelling to faraway places on trips that take over 20 hours to arrive at any destination.

I still love staying too long at parties and dinners. I’m 35-years-old in my mind. It’s the rest that defeats me.

I am reminded of this ‘seniors’ progression when I see my grandchildren gather together for a family celebration. I’m suddenly the matriarch in the corner quietly watching the passing parade, as the grandsons do a dance around the lunch table before tearing outside to chase each other furiously around the garden.

The girls cartwheel and somersault in their own space, the boys throw their energies into designing a complicated shoot ‘em up game which has its own rules of engagement.

I so want to be out there tearing around with them, but that’s hardly an option. Instead, I sedately help set out lunch and leave tearing around to family dogs and kids.

Meanwhile, the parents, now our children in their forties and no longer our children but middle-aged adults with their own mortgages, responsible jobs and the demands of family, sit around swapping stories of workplaces, people they know and things they’re doing in their day-to-day lives.

We have no proper name for these adult children of ours. They’re not children in any sense of the word now, so we can’t comfortably call them children, but they are our children nevertheless. What do you call these people? We need a name for them.

Rob and I disappear into the background of noise and laughter as our families catch up after the winter hiatus where the general aim was to keep warm by not venturing out any more than necessary...well that was our aim.

The grandchildren are involved in all manner of sports during the bleakest of winter days. Their parents are doing exactly what we were doing a generation earlier – standing by the side of a court or oval, rugged up to the ears, sipping milky lukewarm coffee and offering up useless advice from the sidelines.

Retirement finds most of us busier than ever before. Where once we operated in the very limited triangle of work, supermarket and home, followed by ferrying children around to various sporting practices and other activities, we now find ourselves involved in choirs, book clubs, mid-week sports matches, visits to Melbourne for shows and exhibitions, exercise classes, U3A, bushwalking, painting classes, writing groups and more. You name it, we do it. What’s not to love!

Almost everyone donates some time to a charity.

There is very strong evidence out there that involving oneself in a variety of activities keeps us alert and interested in life.

For most of us, the philosophy remains that we prefer to wear out rather than rust out. ‘Vertical and mobile’ is the rule.

I never imagined what ‘senior citizen’ would entail. Now it is here I find there’s nothing to fear, and plenty to relish. We do indeed live in ‘the lucky country’.

ANNIE YOUNG