Thursday, September 3, 2009

Staying relevant in a youth-obsessed society

My last post dealt with some questions to ask yourself to help you determine whether you’re still relevant. But ask yourself this, as a senior citizen, how does one remain relevant over the years? Western society, and even many Asian societies now, are obsessed with the young and youth.

So, how do we avoid becoming obsolete to our near and dear ones and to the society within which we live? Even more importantly, how do we avoid becoming strangers even to ourselves?

Here are a few ideas based on my own personal approach:

Beware of rather early retirement
If your motive is to grab double handfuls of leisure time, you could be heading for trouble, as leisure has different connotations for different people. If you’re hoping to take it easy with nothing to do, you may end up with boredom staring you in the eye.

Don’t stop working
It’s advisable for you to either continue working, or to opt for part-time employment doing something similar to what you already did.

Strike out into new areas
Even better, volunteer your time, teach other people, or passionately pursue things that you always wanted to do but never had the chance.

Stay fit, baby!
Ensure that you exercise. Whether it’s alone or in a group –there are fun aspects to working out. I love to walk in the morning. Maybe you could ride your bike or take a yoga class? Of course, exercise within your limits.

Stay connected
Keep a finger on the pulse of what is happening around you. Read and keep reading. However, if you’re not the type who enjoys reading, find others ways of remaining in the loop. TV, radio and the internet (my favorite) are superb sources for identifying fascinating subjects to fire your imagination. (Though I avoid TV, as it’s not a medium that challenges my mind.)

Keep a diverse set of friends
Instead of staying around people your own age exclusively, strike out into groups that involve younger people, too. Sharing interests is a great way to find new and different friends. Movies for example are a great way to bond with people of all ages.

Socialize regularly
Meet people of all ages to help you keep tabs on what is happening around you. It’ll also earn you the reputation of being ‘hip and with-it.’ Perhaps it might also assist younger folk from getting cut off from other, older age groups. Make friends with younger people, and get linked to current attitudes and ideas.

Don’t become known as an old fogey by finding fault with everything that youth loves and values. Show interest, even if you’re not. You could very possibly learn something valuable from your younger friends. You were in their shoes not that long ago!

Remember you’re living the best part now
Finally, remember that your age does give you a very different perspective of things: My life is now so much more relaxed without the worrisome hassles of rearing a family, or struggling to forge ahead professionally. Now, I watch my kid battling to carve out his own personal fiefdom. However, when he drops by at the close of a day to seek my advice, it’s an experience that is a gift. It’s a feeling of being valued and wanted. We smile as we raise our glasses in a silent, smiling, communicative toast.

Don Alney
Don Alney is a freelance travel writer and photographer, seeking the ‘forever moment.’ He has sought it in Ansel Adam’s Yosemite and in the Big Sur in California, among the foothills of the eastern Himalayas, in the mountains of Himachal Pradesh, in the awesome grandeur of Tamil Nadu’s Chola Temples, and while hanging out on the beaches of Kerala and Goa.

Born in Lucknow, India, Don Alney lives with his wife Winnie, in Calcutta.