IntroductionBeing 60+ can be a real blessing in disguise. It can mean a very good period when one has all time in the world to sit and relax and do worthwhile things. It can even mean a time when one can add substantial value to society. Specifically, any 60+ man or woman can really say that age is just a number, and say so very happily, if they a) engage themselves in useful social work b) engage themselves in meaningful social action c) build emotionally strong family ties d) help people to help themselves and e) follow one's passions actively.
Engaging in useful social workIn big cities like Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad, there are hundreds of elders, who actively promote awareness against aids, help the poor in orphanages, forge superb relationships with peers and keep them happy, even go to slums and identify problems of people and so on. They keep themselves so busy. For their busy activities, there is absolutely no time. There are hundreds who go spiritual. There are ladies who organize the sloka classes and teach them to others, totally free of cost, to anyone interested. There is no caste barrier here. These positive vibrations, in turn, not only promotes spirituality, but also peace. For, such people will only add value to society by spreading the message to even a much more larger number of people. For example, at a temple founded by the sage Gnanananda, (near Thrukovilur, and 36 kilometers from Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu), many 60+ people, of all communities, pray together. Many live in the same campus or in the vicinity. The atmosphere of peace so actively promoted helps the breaking of all barriers. In fact, there is harmony for the asking. These are all practices worth emulating.
Engaging in meaningful social actionThose who reside in Chennai, would be knowing traffic Ramaswamy. This grand old man, some 68 years old, takes on the Government on so many issues. His fight for better traffic rules, through public interest litigation, has contributed to so many reforms on road traffic regulation. In fact, he is totally against the giant hoardings put up everywhere by political personalities. These cause accidents and are a huge distraction to two-wheeler riders. He is still fighting against the Government. There are so many 60+ people, who regularly write in newspapers and expose everything that is not okay. There are hundreds of 60+ people who also participate in marathons and keep fit everyday. They actively support public causes like cleaning up the prestigious Marina beach in Chennai. There are bold 60+ elders trying to expose corruption, in their own little ways. Ultimately, only such people can and do make a huge difference to everything good in our society. Even if we cannot become Traffic Ramaswamys, we can all do something to at least highlight the social hazards and inaction of Government officials, even through social media.
Building emotionally strong family ties It is so common in places like Pollachi, which is a very beautiful town, to find so many joint families. This lovely town is also the favorite of a huge number of Hindi film directors, who film the song sequences in this town. In fact, years ago, the memorable "thanda matlap Coca Cola" advertisement campaign was shot in a village near Pollachi. Amir Khan was the brand ambassador.
Quite apart from such good memories, we also have lovely villages in and around this town. I know of three families, all belonging to one particular community (the name is not mentioned here, the message is more important), who have brothers and sisters and cousins, in various parts of the country and abroad. They are doctors, engineers, civil servants, scientists and technocrats. Yet, none has lost their basic family moorings. They have still strong ties with the lovely villages here, and such houses are huge. They are still village houses, with lovely gardens and so on.
What the elders do is sheer magic. Every summer, the entire family clan of these three families, all of whom have relatives among them, congregate in the villages and it is a huge gathering. They troop in from even the USA, Denmark and so on., Though they are basically non-vegetarian, members of the community, with children right from the age of five, gather together to celebrate some temple festival and avoid non-vegetarian food. They also travel around in vans to the superb hill station of Ooty and have a whale of a time. It is a big advantage that Ooty is hardly three hours drive from Pollachi by car. At a time when even the nuclear family is breaking down, seniors do make it a point to build such emotional bonding. Yes, most elders drive down to Coimbatore city, where they have some business or the other thrice a week. They are often very busy with their business lives. Yet, the elders find time to constantly meet each other. The emotional bonding and the happiness has to be seen to be believed.
In fact, one is told that in another famous community, well known for their business acumen, such gatherings are still common among hundreds of relatives, in the villages in and around Karaikudi, a small town, some two hours drive from Tiruchirapalli. Am not too sure if this is happening in other places in India. If yes, this is something that has to be emulated. We should know that India is one of the few countries where the family has survived as a unit, despite so many challenges.
Every single 60+ man or woman has to learn one important lesson in life: it is never money alone that can bring happiness. Pure love and affection, which is selfless, which is based on solid values and which is still in abundance in the rural areas, has to be emulated by everyone. This is exactly what helps individuals seek recognition and happiness.In those family get together s, most of which I have been specially invited to, could see the elders relating to very young people -- their grandchildren, based in different parts of the country, appreciating every single little achievement, like a first prize in a singing competition held in the school and so on. There is absolutely no bitterness. The jokes, the fun and the playing around cannot be described in words here. One can only feel jealous that such get together s and pure love and affection, is fast becoming a thing of the past, particularly in our urban jungles. Happiness comes from various trigger points in life. When someone is happy, we are also happy. It is as simple as that.
Helping people to help themselvesThere are so many retired bankers who take up the cause of helping people to help themselves. They have made the rural women understand their strengths. They have helped them to pool whatever resources they have and then start a small self-help group. Once this group becomes financially strong to some extent, they are eligible to get bank loans under the existing rules and regulations. There are women engaged in catering services, there are women engaged in basket making with plastic as the raw material, in making jute bags and so on. The variety of businesses they are into are quite huge. Each of these businesses, according to those connected with such women, help each member of the self-help group, earn at least Rs.10,000 per month. Since they live in their own houses, and the husbands are also electricians, plumbers, carpenters and so on, they are able to live a fairly good life.
It is important for the 60+ men and women to work voluntarily on such good causes. It is all purely honorary work. It is work as volunteers. But it so happens that those involved become friend, philosopher and guides of each of the women. When some 60+ member is sick, each and every woman steps in, provides food, goes to the hospital in turns and so on. Such bonding has to be seen to be believed. It is just incredible.
Follow one's passions activelyThere have been so many instances where 60+ people, both men and women have made a success of their passions after active service in their jobs. For example, some twenty years ago, in a then very under developed suburb called Oththakaal mandapam ( now a huge suburb, very well developed) of Coimbatore city, a banker purchased a large tract of land, grew so many varieties of trees, and also built a small house where he could stay. His relatives chided him for investing in a very under-developed place. But this gentleman's patience paid off. The city started to expand on all four sides, with new colleges coming up everywhere.
Today, his passion, which was gardening, has made his house a huge picnic spot. He has also grown a huge number of herbal plants, from which various Siddha medicine is made. ( Siddha is an ancient form of Tamil Nadu medicine). The shady trees are so beautiful.
So, if every 60+ tries, he or she could start an activity connected with some passion and get it going.
ConclusionIt is a superb experience to be 60+ years in age. It is not a curse. None need to be afraid of advancing age. It is a hugely natural process. One can always find new ways of engaging oneself. Certain ideas, as observed in practice, mainly from the city of Coimbatore and its surroundings, have been discussed. The points are never exhaustive. However, it is hoped that these indicative ideas will open up new ideas as well.
The author is right that on attaining the age beyond 60 opens up avenues for doing many social works which could not be taken up in the earlier due to their working pressure. In fact, it all depends upon the individual mind - frame how they would like to lead their lives after their normal retirement to their service.
Sitting ideally at home, engrossing themselves with the reading of novels and newspapers, glueing over TV would give them abundant joys for the time being and later negativity may set in. Hence it to opt for any task which would nurture the social fabric such as imparting education among the deprived class, by being an active participant in the free distribution of meals for the people suffering from the extreme property are some of the noble assignments. Of course, such ventures would require like-minded people for the initiation of such planning.
Once they are determined to uplift the status of poor people including helpless women, there is no dearth of the jobs, simply they have to gear up themselves in order to attain real happiness.
The overhaul, the author has presented a very useful article incorporating the different the different assignments taken up by the senior citizens to lead a certain section of society apart from deriving utmost happiness by doing so.
Yes. Till we retire we will get tied up with office burdens and family responsibilities. Once we attain the age of sixty we will be out of family burdens as our children will get settled. There will not be any work pressure as it is the retirement age. So one will have all the time at his disposal. The person can spend the time as he likes. Generally, the 60+ age will give the individual grandfather status. They can spend time pleasantly with the grandchildren. At the same time, he can improve his knowledge by reading books etc. As expressed by the author helping the needy will give always the pleasure.
But if the person is retired from the services from a private company where there is no pension and if he doesn't have sufficient funds to take care of his needs and if he has to depend on somebody else for his livelihood a 60+ person will have a tough time. He has to look for an alternative job and he has to pull on.
A good article by the author and he has given various options that are available to a senior citizen to plan his time.
Attaining the age 60+ is not a rare thing these days. Lifespan is increasing in general throughout the world. In India, especially, that is the case. The way of life, better education level, availability of better food, better medical attention, job availability even after sixty, etc. are some of the reasons for this extended life.
Personally, being a University Professor, I retired at the age of sixty only. As soon as retired, I was offered different jobs at different institutions. I chose the one I liked. After completing two and a half years, I was taken by another institution. Like this, till last July, I worked and I am now 73+. I am sure I can work for another five or more years. Hence what I feel is that the usage '60+' may definitely be changed as '80+'. If we look at the politicians, there are many who are above 80 or even above 90 and are still active.
If one keeps working in an interesting field or job, he may not feel weak and hence will go on working.
I thought of supplementing a few more points related to the above topic. A community living will always be a welcome thing among the senior people. These days, in several places, 'Senior Citizen's Forums' are formed. These forums organize different programmes suited to the interests of seniors. Here in my place, such a forum is working for more than a decade. Now about 1200 members are there. Every Tuesday a talk or a discussion will be arranged in open park, which will be attended by hundreds. Special programmes including light competitions and outings are also held occasionally. Those who are above 80 participate in these programmes with much interest. They sing songs, tell stories, recite poems, etc just like children. Invited lectures on topics like health, diseases, time management, etc are also held. Many of the members join this to spend the evenings chatting with fellow travelers. However, everybody agrees that the 'aged' feeling is no more with them after joining this forum.
I thought of adding one more important alternative which could be practiced by elder persons. It is nothing but vegetable cultivation. These days vegetables we get from the markets are not organic. Consumption of these vegetables results in health problems. Hence it is generally advised to cultivate vegetables at home if facilities are there.
Elderly people who are otherwise healthy can spend their time attending to this job. Those who live in independent houses will have some vacant place in front side or backside. Suitable cultivation methods can be adopted. It may be to cultivate in the soil directly or using grow bags or pots made of clay. Pot or bag has to be filled with a mixture of soil and dry cow dung powder. Also, dry leaves can be spread in the bottom of the pot. Chosen vegetable seedlings may be planted in each pot, after wetting the mixture pouring sufficient water. Daily attention needs to be given to them. Occasionally, additional organic fertilizers are to be added. Experts may be consulted to guide and help you.
I am writing this from my own and my friend's experiences. Some of them who were just idling away have become very active once we started organic vegetable cultivation programme under the control of our Residents' Association.
Sankaran Sir has made a very important point.
In this connection, I would like to point out the tremendous work and commitment to the cause of organic farming by one Mr Namvaazvaar, who did original work into everything that is natural in Tamil Nadu. Though he is now no more, anyone interested in organic farming in India in a serious way can Google his name to identify some people who are his sincere followers and disciples. They have carried his message far and wide and have converted hundreds of acres of what was once thought of as uncultivable land into fruit yielding gardens and sources of good income through vegetable cultivation as well.
In Tamil Nadu, the late Mr Namvaazvar is a cult figure. Those who want to implement organic farming in a big way may please contact his followers. I guess some information regarding such people and their wonderful experiments are very much available.
There is also a superb Tamil magazine called Manvasanai that carries so many good success stories. I shall consult the editors to take their permission to translate some of these stories and write articles, so that Members can get to know the techniques involved.