Retirement: A Full-time Occupation

Retirement is a fulltime occupation. There are no holidays, no days off and no such thing as a sick day. It is a dedicated job covering 24 hours a day. Of those hours, 16 involve working flat out at being retired. The other 8 are devoted either to sleeping on the couch in front of the TV or struggling desperately to fall asleep in bed. Most successful sleeping is in the form of short naps throughout the day. The after-lunch nap is popular but I find a pre-lunch half an hour equally refreshing.

And then there are the daily activities. I overheard this conversation between 2 retirees in the elevator: “So how’s it going? You keeping occupied? What did you do today?”

“I was at the bank today.”

“Got any arrangements for tomorrow?”

“I’m planning on going to the post office.”

“Wednesday?”

“Wednesday is my day for blood tests at the MOH.”

And that’s roughly how the retiree’s week goes. Busy, busy, busy. Another major consumer of retiree time is food and eating. We enjoy hanging out in the supermarkets, tasting and checking the goods here and there. You’ll find us testing the cheese, grapes and olives for quality. We also enjoy seeking out exotic recipes, none of which will be good for us or suitable for our digestive systems. We love eating – slowly and early, that is.

We all devote time fulfilling our responsibilities to the community. That’s why you’ll find us down at the lake feeding the ducks, helping little children and little old ladies cross the busy streets, keeping the park benches warm and heckling the parking ticket officers.

On the international level we meet often during the course of our days at the local coffee shops and discuss the state of the world. We can all remember how things used to be in the good old days and wonder what it will take to get it back on the rails.


Could I Catch a Dose of Old Age in the Retirement Home?

Sitting here in the lobby of the retirement home doing battle with the diabolical crossword in the morning paper, I am so deeply engrossed in the impossible clues that I forget where I am. I look up to find myself surrounded by old people, some striding along, others tottery and some unmoving. The coffee lounge was empty when I sat down an hour ago and I missed the slow migration of residents seeking air-conditioning, coffee and company.

Everyone, of course, is old in a retirement home. I understand the average age is 80 and at the rate medicine and medical technology is developing it will keep moving up, changing all perceptions of age and longevity. As it is, I am continually surprised by the youth of the old people.

There is the little old lady in the painting group that meets on Tuesdays in the studio. She sits slightly in front of me and for the past few months I have watched her copying a photograph in a magazine and turning it into a beautiful painting of a Dutch windmill. We met in the elevator the other day and I asked her how long she has been painting. “Only since I moved in here 7 seven years ago. I was 83 years old then,” she said wistfully. I had put her in her late seventies. The painting holds place of honor in her apartment among many other paintings she has completed. I also see her in the exercise classes. She doesn’t miss a beat.

The other big surprise today came from another member of the exercise class. He’s getting on, I can tell by his manner. We bumped at a lecture this morning. “I’m 93,” he said with a smile. “The cartilage in my left knee is shot so I use this stick to keep me steady.”  By the way he waved the stick around he would have made the Olympic fencing team.

I’m only in my eighties and still have some years to go to ninety. But I’m optimistic – as long as my back holds out and I don’t get arrested for strangling the crossword setter…


Am I Too Old To Have A Phone?

I don’t think of myself as old and I’m sure that no matter what your age, you never consider yourself old. But now and then one gets a real lesson in “number of years” and one’s theories about age slide straight down the tubes.

I was out for a walk with my young grandson the other day. He is nearly six years old and knows a lot about everything. We ambled along, holding hands and discussing important stuff like the oranges on the trees at the side of the road, the heat of the sun, a slow-moving beetle and suchlike. I hoped he was enjoying the outing as much as I was. We came to a section where new houses are under construction and grandson immediately passed me his most precious possession. “Hold my cell-phone, Pop, it mustn’t get dirty.” He then tested the stability of the earth the contractors had piled up from excavations by climbing up the mounds of sand and sliding down. I was more interested in the houses and stood trying to determine which way the windows were facing.

“I wonder which way is west,” I mumbled aloud to myself. “Those windows are pretty big and the sun is fierce in summer…”

Grandson had overheard. “I’ll tell you, Pop. Pass me my phone.”

What’s the connection, I wondered, as I handed it over?

Sure enough, this little guy, who can barely write his name, clicked a few buttons, turned his body this way and that and pointed, “West is there, Pop.”

“You can tell that from the phone?” I choked.

“Sure! Look here. I’ll show you.”

“All phones can do that?”

“No,” he laughed, “I got an App so I can tell where I am, don’t you see?”

All I can see is that I have to have one of those phones…


Our New TV Supplier

We visited friends recently and over tea the talk turned to books and the television. “What have you read lately? Was it any good?”

“Actually,” they replied, “We subscribed to a new TV service and instead of reading we are watching some great movies.”

“We could use a change in our TV supplier,” I said. “We subscribe to the TV supplier of the retirement home. What they give is what we see. There’s often nothing to watch. What’s your supplier called?”

The following morning I called the number they had given me and asked the guy for details of his service. He mumbled facts and figures none of which were very clear and said he would call on us later that day to see what set-up we have.

We waited with great anticipation. Two days later he called to say he was on the way to see us. He stood in front of our TV set and fiddled with his phone and receiving all sorts of messages on the TV screen. Then he pronounced his verdict.

“Okay, I can supply the program you want but you have to raise the Wi-Fi speed you are getting. Call me when it’s done. Bye-bye”          

I raced downstairs to the maintenance department of the building and asked about the Wi-Fi. No problem. “The supplier is Joe and this is his phone number. Call him.”

I finally spoke to Joe who promised. “Sure I’ll come to your place tomorrow.” The next day turned out to be three days later.

And he came, looked around and said,” I can raise the speed, but I highly recommend that we ‘hard-wire’ the apartment so you have guaranteed Wi-Fi at a guaranteed speed.”

I nodded, having reached the end of my Wi-Fi knowledge. Next day he was back with a helper carrying a huge roll of cable. Our apartment was rebuilt before we moved in and the internal walls are made of double gypsum sheeting. Between these sheets are yards of green plastic hose-pipes, intended to be sleeves through which wires and cables can be drawn. Guess what? Every one of these sleeves was blocked. 

At this stage I stopped watching what was going on. By the end of the day I was told we had new, extra high, extra strong, extra fast Wi-Fi. On the TV screen the picture froze, twitched, stalled and was impossible to watch.

I called the TV man and before I could complain he asked what out Wi-Fi number was.”I told you it had to be at least 30. Call me when you get it.” I called the Wi-Fi guy who said we were getting 30 and more. I clicked my way, using three remotes, to a Manchester United game on and looked at 22 frozen players plus stone statues of the ref and linesmen.

It’s enough guys. I’ve had it. I am 86.9 years old. Here is a brief specification for our new TV service. If you can’t supply this or don’t understand any part of it, don’t apply.

I wish to enter the lounge, sit down on the couch. Take the remote from its hiding place on the coffee table. Press the ‘on’ button. Click a channel number and watch the program. I will deal with the matter of volume. 


To Australia by Wheelchair

The news was exciting! “Congratulations! You became Great-grandparents at 3:26 this morning! Mother and baby are fine!” Come soon!

We didn’t hesitate. The travel agent looked me as I tottered across to her desk. “Wherever you’re going, use a wheel chair at the airports,” she said. “And get one for your wife at the same time!”

I was horrified. Wheelchairs are for the…, you know, ex-walkers, has-beens, washed ups. Not for me. I still walk. It may look funny and sometimes it hurts like hell, but I walk. Of course her suggestion became an instant family war cry: “If you insist on travelling to Australia you have to use wheelchairs in the airports!” 

And so it was. And it turned out to be the best thing we did on this trip. Some invisible notation on our computerized booking set things in motion. At every airport the counter agent took one look at her computer, sent out a magic signal and in a flash, help was at our side, gripping our elbows as though we were about to fall over.

The system worked like a dream. In the airport we sailed along secret passageways, took unknown shortcuts and went through ‘entry-forbidden’ doors. We found ourselves in ‘staff only’ lifts and careened around the airport like two oldies on their last legs. People scooted out of the way, glanced at us and whispered “Poor old couple, just look at them,” as we glided past with averted eyes.

We hardly slowed down for passport control where the lines looked as though they had been there for years; our pushers hit the brakes at security and gave the armed men a split second to look at us and decide we were long past terrorism; in the departure lounges we were seated in the front row and we laughed all the way along the boarding sleeves as our wheelchairs led the other passengers onto the planes. Of course we made sure no one saw us smiling. The wheelchair service was so good that some of our ‘pushers’ actually thanked us for letting them help us!

With all this special treatment my back behaved as though it was born to the noble art of classy air travel. I am at hard at work now on a scheme to get us upgraded from cattle-class to first-class.

Wheelchairs? It’s the only way to fly!


Report from the Over 70s’ Mediterranean Cruise

You live in a retirement home so you see the Over 70s on an hourly basis. You practice patience, you study the habits of the elderly, you make yourself the most patient person in town and finally you know you can handle any situation that demands the slightest sliver of patience – and then you put your name down for an “over 70s” cruise. And in the first three minutes, everything you know about patience goes straight down the tubes.

The cruise started with a few days in Barcelona and included various bus tours around the city. Finally everyone, meaning 20 elderly ladies and 3 gents were on the bus and off we went.

“It’s too hot in here! Is there no air-conditioning?”

“It’s much too cold in here! I will freeze! Switch on the heaters!”

“I brought a sweater! Why didn’t you think of that?”

Then there was the seating.

“You’re in my seat. I sat there yesterday.”

“There is no permanent seating. I’m sitting here!”

“Out!”

“I want my seat back. I will be sea-sick if I sit further back!”

“That’s my seat! Out, I say!”

The seating war was finally solved by having a quick draw for seats as we climbed aboard the bus.

Then other seating problems arose.

Where do you park your cane in the bus? “It keeps falling and startling everyone. Everyone jumps! It sounds like a gun going off!”

How do you fit a 36 inch wide beam into a 24 inch wide corridor? “Even when you turn sideways you don’t fit!”

Then there are embarking and disembarking issues.

“I need an extra step to get into the bus!”

Getting down the bottom step is a nightmare. “I go in reverse, it’s easier.”

And short-term memory works on the bus too.

“Driver, I left my cane in that coffee shop. Please go back!”

“Madam, it’s 45 miles from here…”

“I’m sure I had my passport in my hand when we went into that church. Now it’s gone.”

“Why did you bring a passport to a church?”

“You never can tell with these Italians.”

“That’s the third pair of sunglasses I’ve lost in Sorrento. I’ll have to come back. Isn’t that a song? Oh, here they are on my head!”


The Senior’s Eleventh Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Fall

There are many bad things a Senior can do, but falling is about the worst. Your immediate and most important objective at this stage in your life is to stay on your feet. It’s bad enough when a young person falls in the street or the house, but when an oldie falls, the consequences can be disastrous. Old bones don’t heal quickly; torn muscles and tendons cannot be fixed. I can cite any number of falls where the victim never fully recovered or if he or she did recover, they were never the same again.

So I walk with my head down; I watch for changes in the floor or sidewalk levels when I am outside; I look for those treacherous two inch steps that building laws ban but which are the favorites of building contractors who don’t know their arithmetic and get their floor levels wrong and have to adjust them.

Of course there are falls that are harmless. You get up, shake the dust off and continue on your way. Others are not as innocuous – you may be unconscious or have hit your head on the concrete and broken bones in your face. In either of those two cases it is mandatory to have a CT scan of the head. And you stand a chance of having surgery. Don’t fall.

Falling is the second leading cause of accidental death worldwide and is a major cause of personal injury, especially for the elderly. The World Health Organization estimates that 424,000 people die in falls every year. Don’t fall.

In the elderly, even falls from standing position to flat ground may cause serious injuries. In a study of 80,000 elderly persons the risk of falling increases for any who are taking multiple prescription medications and for all who are taking psychoactive drugs.

Do yourself and everyone around you a favor – don’t fall!


Is The Pain In My Finger From Too Much Exercise?

There are many different Keep-Fit programs here in the retirement home. When we first moved in, I read the list of exercising opportunities that ranges from chair exercises to water aerobics to a fully fitted gymnasium, and pondered over what was best for me. I immediately went into exercise denial and did nothing for the first couple of months. Then guilt reared its head and I tentatively went to something called “chair exercises”, thinking this would suit my level of inactivity and still allow me to maintain my status as a fully fledged member of the couch-potato club.

Surprise!

The super-fit instructor has built a routine of exercises where the attendees are all done while sitting in a sturdy chair. She begins with arm exercises. From there she moves up to the head and neck and then all the way down to the toes, leaving no muscle untouched.  The session lasts for 45 minutes and each set of exercises lasts for about 15 seconds with a break of about 5 seconds between the sets, meaning that there are over 100 different exercises in the session.

When I first started this innocent activity I sneered at the thought of exercising while sitting. Chair exercises? A sure oxymoron! I soon discovered over 100 aching muscles in my body that I never knew about. Today after about 9 months of attending this group twice a week I am fitter and able to do all the exercises reasonably well. I haven’t got used to the idea of telling others that I attend ‘chair-exercise’ sessions. And that I enjoy them.

But this morning while she was exercising our finger muscles – yes, you read that correctly – finger muscle exercises – I felt a sharp pain in the top joint of my right pinkie.

Can you tell me, instructor, am I getting stronger or weaker?


Retirement Home Ahead – Patience Required

If you are one of those people who think they have unlimited patience, come and spend a day here in our Retirement Home. Stand behind a 95 year old woman who is shakily serving herself a cup of coffee from a vending machine. The patience test starts when she has to decide which button to press. Actually, it doesn’t matter – most of the coffee finishes up on the floor.  

Come stand in the mob waiting for the elevator to take them back to their floors after the concert in the ground floor auditorium. The stainless steel elevator car arrives, the doors slide open, the crowd pushes forward in anticipation and right in front, Betty, aged 89 and leaning heavily on her aluminum walker, adjusts herself and prepares to enter the elevator. She shuffles slightly and moves forward. The feet of the walker catch on the groove of the sliding door and she jerks the walker. The lady behind her leans forward to help. Betty lets go the walker, turns around, put her hands on her hips and snaps, “I don’t need any help, thank you!” She turns back and starts the entry maneuver again. The elevator doors have closed and the elevator is running on empty.

I, standing eight rows back, and in a raging hurry to get to the bathroom, grind another millimeter off my teeth which are clamped tightly together to prevent me yelling words usually heard only down at the waterfront.

Come with me when lunch is being served. I can order my meal in a few seconds by pointing at the food containers and muttering, “this, that and that!” But Bella with the purple hair is in front of me.

“What is that?” she asks pointing.

“Sesame chicken, madam.”

“And how is it cooked?”

Long explanation follows.

“And is it hot?”

“It is warm, madam.”

“No. I don’t like the look of that. What’s that one?”

“That is fish in a tomato sauce.”

“What kind of fish is it?”

“Sea bass, madam.”

“And how is it cooked?”

She listens to a detailed description of the recipe.

“No. I don’t feel like fish today. What’s that one?”

And twenty or thirty people in the line stand silently. They all know that when they get to the front of the line they won’t be any quicker than Bella with the purple hair.

And I’ve discovered that I have unlimited patience. I can wait another 10 years or so to get my own back…


Secrets Revealed: What We Seniors Talk About In the Retirement Home

Seniors talk. A lot. In fact, you could say that this is our main occupation. Age has finally brought us to a point in life where we are able to bring our full concentration to bear on our conversations. We are no longer troubled by such mundane matters as work, money and other unimportant issues. We can confine ourselves to the essentials: food, drink, food, reading, food, reminiscing and the weather. And food.

Walk over to any of the conversation groups in the lounge of this retirement home and you will find residents furiously engaged in coffee and essential conversation.

“I have tried cooking Spaghetti Bolognese twice. Once with red wine and once without. There is nothing to argue about. It must have red wine and lots of it. A couple of glasses inside the cook improves the taste as well!”

“We drank 3 different varieties of single-malt scotch last night: Glenlivet, Macallan and I can’t remember the third. You can’t compare them to blended scotch, even the expensive ones! It’s definitely worth paying the extra!”

“If we don’t get good rains this year we are doomed, I say! Poor rains mean poor crops, floury fruit and sour oranges. We need an average of at least 20 millimeters every month from now until April and then we’ll be okay!”

Seniors are great at reminiscing as well. We can discuss any battle of the Second World War and can recite long and accurate descriptions of minor and major incidents in world history from 1920 onwards. We remember the names and the dates as though it happened yesterday. “The August Revolution? Hell, I was standing right next to General What’s-his-name when that bullet went clean through his head!”

Seniors always talk with great self-confidence and are unshakeable in their opinions. You cannot argue with a senior. He knows everything and a whole lot more as well.