RETIREMENT AND THE SECOND INNING

Retirement has inbuilt romance in it. One feels excited as well morose. One is not only leaving work but also the workforce. There are trade-offs between a good life and a happy life. There is a paradox between happiness and unhappiness. Assuming one is not worried about his after-retirement support system, there are issues of negligence and boredom. They are afraid of missing the routine they have followed for years. Their less-engagement with society bothers them. Assumed health distresses are major concerns. Spouse's health begins to bother them much more. They become more concerned about their contingency plans. ‘Don't do this, don't do that’ becomes routine matter. End-of-life scenarios suddenly become very real. More and more they suffer from planning fallacy. ‘If we would have done this we would have got this’ bothers them incessantly. Suddenly future events seem bleaker. Hyperbolic discounting takes precedence. Attitude changes as we age. Our emotional satisfaction becomes more fulfilling than learning new skills. When we are young we are energetic, dynamic, quick learners, innovative, more adaptable, more irresponsible, inexperienced, less focused, immature, impetuous, naïve, etc. Beyond a certain age, generally, we become more responsible, conscientious, better team members, less self-centred, more demanding, less flexible, less sharp, etc. Older people know their limits, and so can gauge their horizons more accurately. They can recognize hidden talents not only in themselves but also in their acquaintances. They are less hesitant to accept people as they are. At times they are stubborn and unreasonable, but that is ok as they have learnt that imperfection is normal. Momentary lapses do not bother them so much. The older one becomes, generally, one begins to discover new secrets of nature. One finds new meaning even in familiar things. One feels less threatened by the competition. They do many things because they enjoy doing them. They deal in a much better way life’s ordinary disappointments. Most importantly, they get time to reflect. They put on less make-up. They begin to enjoy life again. Socrates asks Cephalus: “There is nothing which for my part I like better than conversing with aged men; for I regard them as travellers who have gone on a journey which I too may have to go, and of whom I ought to enquire, whether the way is smooth and easy, or rugged and difficult. And this is a question which I should like to ask of you who have arrived at that time which the poets’ call the Threshold of old ages -- Is life harder towards the end, or what report do you give of it?” Cephalus’s reply was equally interesting: “Men of my age flock together; …and at our meetings, the tale of my acquaintance commonly is -- I cannot eat, I cannot drink the pleasures of youth and love are fled away: there was a good time once, but now that is gone, and life is no longer life. Some complain of the slights which are put upon them by relations, and they will tell you sadly of how many evils their old age is the cause. But to me, Socrates, these complainers seem to blame that which is not really in fault. For if old age were the cause, I too being old, and every other old man would have felt as they do. But this is not my own experience, nor that of others whom I have known. For certainly old age has a great sense of calm and freedom: when the passions relax their hold, then, as Sophocles says, we are freed from the grasp, not of one mad master only, but many. The truth is, Socrates, that these regrets, and also the complaints about relations, are to be attributed to the same cause, which is not old age, but men's characters and tempers for he who is of a calm and happy nature will hardly feel the pressure of age, but to him who is of an opposite disposition youth and age are equally a burden.” Nirad Choudhury, on turning 100, wrote “I have found that to sit by the rivers of Babylon is not necessarily to weep in Hebraic sorrow. Today, borne on a great flood of faith, hope, and joy in the midst of infinite degradation, I feel that I shall be content to be nothing forever after death in the ecstasy of having lived and been alive for a moment. I have made the discovery that the last act is glorious however squalid the play may be in all the rest”. This is the same man who considered himself a striking illustration of the survival of the most unfit. Choudhury wrote “Three Horsemen of the New Apocalypse” when he was in his hundredth year. What criteria should we follow to decide if one is old or young and who decides that? Is age the only criterion or there are other things, like discipline, hard work, and performance to remain young? Mental age and physical age may not match. A physically ‘old’ person can be ‘mentally’ young and vice versa. We cannot stop physical ageing, but we can stop to age mentally, and may even reverse it. We know that we can’t run as fast at forty as we could at twenty but we also know that we can think better at forty than at twenty. Elderly people can learn new abilities. This so-called wisdom of old age is because the elderly brain is less dopamine-dependent, making people less impulsive and controlled by emotion. Older people are less prone to negative emotional stimuli because their brains are comparatively slower than younger people. Probably, the most exciting breakthrough has been the finding that neuroplasticity, the ability to generate neurons and synapses, continues throughout an individual's life. Our actions do not always aim at maximizing our ‘utility’, especially when we are in our second inning. The 'expenditure' on 'good time' is not necessarily aimed at productivity. We underestimate intrinsic attributes and therefore devote too little time to our family, friends or hobbies. On the other hand, we are overoptimistic about our extrinsic attributes. As a result, we put too many efforts into acquiring social status, which does not always yield proportionate benefits. In the third age, one wants to work for free. One wants to work because he thinks due to age, “structural lag“ has not crept into his thinking, and he can still contribute to the welfare of society. Lesser the time older people are engaged in social activity, the faster their motor function declines. Participating in mentally stimulating activities protects age-related cognitive decline. Motivation to become more active is the most difficult challenge the third-agers face. Old age makes one feel lonely. But there are many good things about growing old. With age, one supposedly attains wisdom. In the third age, one gets an opportunity to be in his 'second childhood'. It is the third-ager who only decides his second inning and what she/he is going to do in her/his second childhood.