Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Rising Above Age Concerns


Now, there is a saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Well, I disagree.

It isn’t only retired people who can feel lonely, of course; it can (and often does) happen to anyone who, for whatever reason, feels out of the social loop and has no idea what to do about it. Doing nothing, though, is not an option unless we are resigned to letting life pass us by. For retired people, daytime TV isn’t a satisfactory option either.

Focusing on the job in hand, many of us underestimate the importance of the everyday contact with other people that any work ethos offers. Suddenly, we arrive at the retirement we have looked forward to all our working lives; for single people, especially, that everyday contact may well no longer be there. Gone are the people that have been so much a part of our lives for so long; gone, too, a major focal point…the job itself.

I got chatting to a widower recently who hated retirement until he joined a local community group campaigning for better facilities for young people in his area. A former business executive  he  was able to bring his organization skills (among others) to the campaign and made lots of new friends, young and old. I asked him why he got involved in the first place. “I suddenly realised I was on my own, going nowhere fast and I’d be stuck with Jeremy Kyle if I wasn’t careful,” he told me with a grin. “I was out of the loop good and proper, and nothing was going to change unless I made it happen. I heard about the campaign, and have never looked back. If not the campaign, I’d have found something, you can be sure of that. I mean, you can’t survive on your own, can you…?”

How do I cope with retirement? Well, I took early retirement at 50 so I could spend more time writing. An isolationist occupation, you might think, but feedback suggests my blog readers enjoy many of my poems, and I have always found writing very therapeutic. Even so, I made a point of getting out and meeting people for many years if less so now as I have prostate cancer and a mobility problem following a nasty fall in 2014. Yet, I made some good friends and remain in touch with some, especially my best friend Graham, these plus my blog readers help me feel in a loop I’d rather be in than out so no worries there.

Many older people are unable to get out and about; for them – especially single people and those whose families are not on hand – loneliness can be a terrible thing. I recently heard of someone who takes retirement (and loneliness) in his stride by visiting lonely people and spending time with them. “It’s two-way traffic,” he told me when we met recently, “We support each other.”

Supporting each other… What better way to stay in the loop, eh?

I recall once complaining about being bored to my English teacher Mr ‘Jock’ Rankin who had asked how I was settling in at my new home across the river. ‘Life won’t come to you, Taber,” he said, “You have to go out and meet it head-on or you’ll not only be bored, you’ll be lonely too” Wise words in my ear, some 60+ years on…


Loneliness crept up on me,
had its feet  well under my table
before I knew it

No one calling on the phone,
no one ever knocking at my door
to ask how I am

No more cheery cards, letters,
remains of  kinder times dropping
on the doormat

No one stopping for a chat
while window shopping, desperate
to pass the time

Took a tumble in the street,
complete strangers rushing to help
piece me together

Faith in humanity restored,
I joined a local community project,
got myself a life

Self-pity, it had played dirty,
given Once-Upon-A-Time priority
over Here-and-Now

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

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