Recently a friend sent me this picture with the caption: Don’t worry about getting old …. worry about thinking old.
Good advice, it reminds me of a warning I once read against making old fogey noises when exerting oneself. In the good old days when I still made an effort to work-out in public, I always made a concerted effort not to grunt and groan as I exercised muscles best left resting. Of course I would like to think that I don’t have an old mindset, let alone make unattractive noises, but if truth be told I have been known to – occasionally – resort to both.
One of the ways in which my “thinking old” manifests itself these days is in the dread I have developed as I’ve aged of the drive from the farm to Durban and, more especially, the airport. The heavy duty vehicles that turn the N3 into scenes out of Mad Max terrify me. I dose myself up on Rescue and am still a gibbering wreck when I finally reach my destination. It wasn’t that long ago when I hit the road in my little Postman Pat panel van to make the trip between the farm and Durban every fortnight. I batted along the freeway with the music blaring, singing at the top of my voice and never gave it a second thought. Now I’m white-knuckled and silent, concentrating for all it’s worth. Yup, I’m afraid that’s thinkin’ old.
But enough of thinking and acting old, what about worrying about getting old? The other day I was chatting to Kiera on Skype and, as usual, the future of the South African economy came up for discussion. Is the president, Jacob Zuma, trying to take control of treasury, what will happen to the exchange rate if Pravin Gordhan is fired, should we be worried about escalating costs? “Come to America” says Kiera, and it’s tempting, very tempting. But I’m happy here and right now I can’t imagine living anywhere else. And even if I wanted to leave, I can’t – I couldn’t abandon my mother, or my dogs for that matter, nor could I afford the move. Whatever we have saved for our dotage would not translate well into dollars.
However, the conversation got me wondering whether we should be more proactive when it comes to making plans for getting old. I realise that it’s a bit late now, we really should have made more provision for that when we were younger. And I don’t know what else we should be doing to prepare for getting old. I’m a great believer in the ostrich approach to problem solving but is it wise to simply ignore the reality? We are, after all, aging in a country that is not particularly kind to old people. Poverty, neglect and physical / mental deterioration are very real fears as we age. How do we ensure against that?
Having my mother live with us has taught me a lot about aging. I’ve come to realise that caring for an aged parent need not be considered a burden; an inconvenience at times, yes, but certainly not an insurmountable problem. Since she lives on the farm, it’s easy for me to care for her and she is able to continue living in her own space, which gives her a huge amount of joy (especially her garden). She seems content and has never expressed a desire for anything else.
My dream, my castle in the air, is that circumstances will allow us to continue to live on the farm for as long as we have a decent quality of life here. A lot will depend on our finances (or how much of a burden we will be to our children). And a lot will depend on the political economy of the country. These things are beyond our control. What we can control is our response to aging and the difficulties that it entails. We can, and should, simply refuse to get old in spirit. We can try to stay positive; enjoy life while we can; and really appreciate and take pleasure in the simple things. But most importantly, I think, we need to be kind and generous and have faith in the law of karma.
The theme for our September Camera Club meeting was “reflections”. I cheated and photoshopped this picture which was taken in the everglades last year. I didn’t win the trophy.