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Gerardo Castillo Ceballos, Professor of the School of Education and Psychology of the University of Navarra

The secret of older retirees who do not fall into old age

Mon, 11 Jun 2018 13:58:00 +0000 Published in The Confidential


When the "old age" crisis is combined with the retirement crisis, the person experiencing it is often plunged into a state of perplexity and anguish. After many years of work, they suddenly find themselves with eight empty hours a day. What do I do now?

For the change to have less effect, it is advisable not to abandon work abruptly. It is better to do it gradually. An easy way to begin to fill this void is to practice a hobby and a sport suited to personal tastes and possibilities. It is the opportunity to do things that we always wanted to do but lack of time prevented us from doing. For example, go fishing in a rowboat.

Some people decide to dedicate themselves only to rest ("I have deserved it"). In this way they squander the experience and wisdom acquired over the years; moreover, continued idleness generates boredom and a feeling of uselessness. These people renounce to new responsibilities, to maintain cultural subject concerns and to continue learning (even when they are in good health and not older than 60 years). This posture usually has two possible causes:

1-Retirement is seen as an escape and as an almost total liberation from duties, as a time of permissive life. Correct criterion: one retires from one's professional work , but not from living as a member of a family (father and grandfather), as a citizen, as a Christian, etc.

2- Inadaptation to the "third age" It is true that with the passing of the years one loses Schools, but this loss is usually reduced when the Schools are still exercised, as confirmed by lives such as those of the musicians Rodrigo and Casal, who maintained a great intellectual activity until a very advanced age. One can be very old without being old. "One does not grow old by having lived a certain issue number of years; one grows old by having deserted the ideal" (Mac- Arthur).

Are there strong arguments to justify the attitude of continuing to learn after retirement? I propose two, which I set out below.

1-Maintain the brain in good condition. Keep the intellectual capacities active with reading, with new learning (for example, a language, computer science...) and with creative thinking exercises.

2- Not to be left behind in the new world in which one is living. Dr. Luis María Gonzalo suggested that older people should take measures to avoid living as exiles and strangers in their own land. And he encouraged them to maintain interest in events and to overcome the first symptoms of tiredness when reading a book or a magazine.

Although for some people retirement is considered the final period of life, the useful and productive stage of a person's life has nothing to do with an age limit. The retirement stage can be even better than the previous one if you know how to approach it.

  Carrying out a volunteer activities is a very beneficial and satisfying activity, both for the people helped and for those who help them. It is the latter who learn the most and improve personally by serving others, because this willingness awakens and stimulates the best of themselves. This new task increases their self-esteem, stimulates the exercise of skills that were hidden and widens the circle of people with whom they relate. This avoids four frequent evils in the life of the retired and elderly person that deteriorate the body and spirit: idleness, boredom, sedentary life and isolation.

Volunteers should live a life consistent with the values they are trying to stimulate in the process of improvement staff of those they are trying to help.

(joy, patience, solidarity, strength, etc.). They also need a permanent attitude of training . I suggest a recently published and very innovative book on the support of older people: Pedrojuan Viladrich: "La unión hace la fuerza. Letters between apprentice veterans".

The book contains real cases based on experiences on volunteer activities. It exemplifies the activity of elderly volunteers who take care of the training staff of other elderly people who usually live in nursing homes. It describes how these volunteers communicate with each other to exchange experiences by means of Letters. The secret of this exemplary behavior is to consider themselves as learners at each new age, being open to the new and to the future.

This approach coincides with Azorín's thesis : "Old age is almost only the loss of curiosity". For the "veteran apprentices" each new year is sowing in new lands to reap new harvests.