Let the “GoGang” be!

Golden Age Gang (GoGang) is a fancy name I want to give to the aging population! Within a couple of hours of my publishing the blog “Age with an open mind IV” two friends Sudhakar and Vijay passed very similar comments, “Age with the Open eyes too!” I had made a passing comment on things for which old population should keep their eyes open too; it can be a subject for a blog itself. Sudhakar in his inimitable style drew a beautiful picture depicting the meaning of what he wanted to say.

SonyaEye

So here I am suggesting, let the “GoGang” be! At the same time let them not forget to keep their eyes open! With families becoming nuclear, different units in families live separately, including the retired families. A change is taking place as retiring and settling down has become a collaborative process between nuclear families. Younger families can help retirees settle down but they can do so by remaining in background.   

One sees and hears so many different experiences all around that it is better to keep eyes and ears open. What you need in the old age is peace of mind! The peace will help retirees in keeping good health, financial independence and healthy relations with near and dear ones. Other things that will make Golden Age Gang (GoGang) feel independent, is to help them take care of themselves, with as little support as possible. Young people may set up GoGang’s Wifi’s or gadgets for them if they are technically uncomfortable. GoGang may need support in setting up their cell phones! Things are changing so fast these days that even younger generation can feel the challenges of technology.

The importance of being independent is twofold for GoGang. Independence is sometimes the only thing seniors may feel they can control, as certain aspects of their life change with age. Additionally, maintaining independence promotes a sense of achievement that for many seniors generates a great sense of self-worth and well-being. Don’t forget that the same people were younger once and have achieved a lot in their working lives!

Often, seniors are able to live independently with a little or no help at all. However, some need assistance due to physical or mental limitations that may come with aging. In these cases, living at home alone, does not become a lost cause. Home health care companies are mushrooming in India, who help seniors maintain independence for as long as possible. Caregivers help old people in activities of daily living, such as grocery shopping, light cleaning, cooking and other activities that enable seniors to live at home independently. In typical Indian way, this is also being done in unofficial way. It can be a quid pro quo arrangement. I know of someone who lives in a bungalow; he has provided staying quarters to a family, free and they have arrangement whereby both the families help each other by providing services and free quarters!

We must understand that in order to maintain true levels of independence, it is important for seniors to be involved in their own care. When assisting the GoGang, don’t come in and perform all their duties. Instead, follow a technique called interactive caregiving. This means involving seniors in daily activities and duties, dependent on the senior’s capabilities. Let the GoGang be part of the solution and do not treat them as a problem.

Some seniors are able to take part with house cleaning, grocery shopping, cooking and other duties, let them do it. In fact, you should encourage them to do it. Above and beyond performing household tasks together, engage in other activities with seniors, such as playing games, going for walks, eating meals together or simply engaging seniors in lively conversations.

When I talk about keeping eyes open by the “GoGang”, I don’t mean about the sleep. Keeping eyes open is not a problem anymore, getting the shut eye is! What happens is that people tend to become a little softer and more emotional as they age. Deteriorating health adds to the problem. All your future income is going to be dependent on the assets that you have when you retire. This is where “GoGang” should become pragmatic.

I will share stories to elaborate what I mean. A famous lady lawyer from Pune, from my parent’s generation and her lawyer husband had a big property with a bungalow. Due to her blind love ( at a later stage she had become blind too!) for the son, she transferred the property in her son’s name. When her husband died, the prodigal son ensured that she was forced to leave home. She finally moved to her daughter’s place and died a broken lady.

A classmate was similarly impractical. His son, unfortunately, went big way into gambling. Our friend initially helped him to come out of his gambling debts. But such debts are like a bottomless pit. The problem became so serious that a couple of years back the retired friend had to sell of his flat where he lived, his only asset; this closed the son’s gambling debts (at that time) but our friend has now landed into a big trouble, he is a nervous wreck and asset less. When I last checked, he had gone to stay with his daughter, who lives in the US! This cannot be a permanent solution due to visa issues. How will he handle life after coming back to India? His initial help to his son was ok but what was the point in selling off the only asset? In the worst-case scenario, the son could have to the jail or maybe I don’t know! But now the whole family is down with zero chance of coming up! What was achieved? That my friends is blind love.

Friends, right from the days you start your family, keep open discussions about finances in your home where thought process emphasized should be that “money is part of life, it is not THE life”! With this thinking there is a possibility that your children will look at the money as a means and not the end! In spite of such thought process and training, it is possible that children may think differently after they get married. Their wives may have grown up with different thinking! Don’t forget that people change, and this includes your children!

What then is the solution? Make a Will! It should be very pragmatic, practical! All assets, fixed and liquid, all jewelry everything to pass on to the spouse who dies later. Make separate Wills for husband and Wife! Then after both the spouses die, make it very clear how the assets are to be distributed. Liquid asset values keep on changing; these should be distributed among children in a ratio starting from 100 to 0%, whatever way you want to do it. The sequence of how this will happen and why distribution is made in a certain way should be clearly explained in the Will! Hopefully, this will avoid bitterness among children. We all love our children but we need to be practical and pragmatic for obvious reasons.

But will transition be peaceful after following the basics? That is million dollar question which has no answer!  Hope that WILL, will find a way!

Learn or Perish!

The difference between humans and their ancestors is a tricky subject to deal with. Yes, we share ancestors with monkeys; we share ancestors with every living thing. But, also, to be clear: We did evolve from monkeys.  There have been different claims as to who our ancestors were. Though I have mentioned about the differences, I want to compare ancestor’s life and our life today, irrespective of who our ancestors were.

Most important difference is the concept of families and ownership. Even in humans this concept started only ten thousand years back, when humans learnt farming! Farming ensured that they changed their nomadic ways and started building more permanent dwellings which later became homes. This started a concept of ownership, then they started “owning” their women so the society started “knowing” who was the father of any child. This was a major evolution in human thought process compared to thinking of their ancestor. Still some of the basic things hardly changed, the life expectancy did not increase much. The increase in average life span is the story of 20th century; first half of 20th century this increase was in the developed nations and second half of the century, in the developing nations. Now in India the average life expectancy has reached a level of 65/70 years.

What is the effect of these changes? In olden times people almost never “saw” their grandchildren as most of the people died before the grandchildren were born. In the case of our ancestors, they did not even “know” who their children were, so the question about grandchildren never came in to picture. With ownership & family, concept of selfless love also started coming into picture. Humans with evolved brain and thought process started thinking differently than the ancestors. Ownership brought the thoughts of savings for future, owning a home, second home then… humans thought in terms of buying assets, storing things for a rainy day.

With ownership of farm land, selfless love was displayed while cultivating farm produce, fruit bearing trees and flower beds. People looked after them tenderly. Some of the large trees have lives longer than human lives, so these trees were passed on from generation to generation. Such trees went on to create local folklore. This thinking was never there with our ancestors because of low life expectancy. I am not an expert in this field but I draw this conclusion from the fact that our ancestors never settled and almost never saw their grandchildren.

There is a major difference between human progeny on one side, and the trees and flower beds planted by humans. In the first case, their birth just happens but in the second case these are specifically planted by humans. But look at the irony. Both are tended equally tenderly, looked after till they become self-sustaining. But the farm produce and fruits are cut and used for eating, tree branches are used for making furniture and for building homes. Whereas the progeny is supported till they are strong enough to be on their own and they are trained to take their own decisions about their lives. Especially after marriage, their own family and children, next generation becomes more and more independent. Humans are happy to see them go ahead in life. Humans keep on loving them life long!

The utility and work of trees, flowers and produce is over when we utilize them but in case of progeny they become more precious to us as they grow and succeed in this world. In both cases, we remember their babyhood, their childhood, their adolescence, their youth!  The longevity helps us to see the growth path of the progeny. In both cases the selfless love  creates many beautiful memories in our mind!

Trees, farm produce, and flowers teach us one thing. They are useful to us but we learn to stay away from falling in love with them as we know that when their work is over, they will part with us. For humans, this is a new thought process about their progeny.  For these reasons they were hardly trained, mentally,  for Old Age or Vanprasthashrama! There was never much need for geriatric medicine, this specialty simply did not exist. From what I have heard about olden days, old people simply hung around in a corner of the house and withered one day.

Is longevity bane or boon? This is being discussed in the society. In olden days, average humans simply died before reaching the stage of having grandchildren, they did not live long so there was never any requirement to save money for post-retirement life. Longevity with shortage of funds is a definite no, no! Is it a curse to human race and to the families? Longevity with money in the bank is ok. But there is a need for training programs to teach old people to look at the progeny, the way humans look at trees and flowers; limit yourself from their lives and go on with your own lives. Enter Vanprasthashrama, in the real sense as far as next generation is concerned. In Vanprasthashrama, our shastras say that we can travel! We should travel to our own destinations in life!

In the beginning of 20th century, concept of migration started, in a bigger way. Before that people moved to different countries to conquer and loot. British, French, Portuguese colonies are typical examples of migration backed by officialdom. 20th century migration is individual migration and is happening all over the world.  With children staying in different cities, states and countries, their extremely busy life style, their own families growing, humans need to train themselves to interact with the progeny when progeny has time. They need to train themselves to meet their progeny, at their convenience. Humans have to learn that they are not in the immediate circle of the progeny!

Humans have learned to deal with the issue of selfless love in case of trees and flowers; and they also know at what stage to withdraw and let go. Humans have to learn the same about progeny.  We may not be aware but the someone may already have developed a computer program to handle this, we only need to download it in our mind and start using it asap. We don’t need Artificial Intelligence (AI) for this, we are intelligent enough to know the right time to do it!

Age with an Open Mind III

After writing the blog “Age with an Open Mind”, I got an idea that I should write a couple of more blogs on the similar theme. The first blog was mainly about “keeping the brain active and sharp”. In second one I have written about “keeping our body active, sharp and flexible.” In the third & final blog in the series I will write about “Keeping our mind active, positive and interactive.”

Human personality is complex and is made up of Brain, Body and Mind! These three aspects are most important but there could be many more aspects which will be subsets of these three aspects. Brain and Body are physical but Mind can be described as a “Virtual Entity” in today’s language. We describe people as “Oh! He/ She is a simple soul”. Or sometimes we say “Oh! He is a tough guy!” All these adjectives like Simple, Tough describe the personality of humans. Simple soul could be six foot tall and a tough guy could be five foot tall! Human personality is a combination these three parameters.

How does the combination affect us? In young age, we are so busy with many things that we don’t care or have time to think about these aspects, we neglect our body but our brain is active. As we age our mind starts behaving differently as we have more time on hand. Our body and brain start aging. There is a saying in Marathi language मन चिंती ते वैरी न चिंती“! It means that bad thoughts can veer so much in our mind, even our worst enemy will never think about us that way.

This is the reason we should think of “minding” our mind. Personality of a human being is formed by what one sees from outside and also what is not seen from outside. In my first two blogs I have written about the “seen” part. If your brain is sharp it reflects in your demeanor. If your body is aging as it should, this is also seen from your fitness levels but your mind’s status may not be “seen” as some of us are good actors and we hide the mind’s aging process to some extent. As and when we retire, relevance of various activities changes for you as well as for others. When you don’t go to office every day, our perspective of time changes. You need to handle time on hand. During working phase, you don’t get time for many things but when you retire, there is plenty of time for everything plus you are left with more than excess time on hand. This needs to be planned well.

In brain and body blogs we discussed their management during retirement. Similarly let us define how to manage our mind.

1.       First and foremost we must understand that we will have more than enough time and others may not have time for you. Get used to it!

2.       Keep connect with people of all age groups.

3.       Try and keep connect keep connect with younger people, try and understand modern things, otherwise connect becomes difficult

4.       Cell phone and internet technologies are part of our day to day life, adapt to them.

5.       Never let the discussion veer towards “in our times”- your time is gone, nobody is interested in it!

6.       By all means join groups where people are your age but be selective to ensure that most are broadminded and positive.

7.       Travel and visit places where you could not go during working days, due to lack of time.

8.       Take up a hobby like reading, painting, writing, bird watching and what have you!

9.       Your day must be planned in such a way that you always have something to look forward to.

10.   There are many other things that can be done but it depends on individuals.

11.       Try and remain financially independent and keep your finances under your control. Your assets are for your children “after both of you go and not before”. Don’t become emotional about it. This gives peace to your mind!

12.       Keep your financial documents properly managed, that gives you peace in mind!

These are some of the things that are going to keep your mind active and positive. Remaining positive and interested in your retired life is going to help you remain healthier. At this age some or the other physical issues are bound to be around. But recovering from ailments is going to be easier by positivity of mind. At this stage there will be deaths of spouse, siblings, friends, close ones, neighbours. Handling deaths is an aspect which needs to be learnt. Share your thoughts with others, don’t just clam up. Your mind comes into picture in such situations. Positive and strong mind is going to help you. Friends, try to keep your mind as busy as you were during your working days. This may not involve physical activity but mental activities.  

God has given us gift of human body and brain. Body is bound to age naturally, but mind is not the God’s gift. It is in our hands to keep it young! If we take special efforts to keep our mind positive, active and agile, quality of our retired life will be much better! Mind is OUR business!