Health & Fitness

Plan for better life in the sunset years

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Summary

  • Reading in particular is a good way of keeping your mind active.
  • You must also make sure that you remain socially engaged by involving yourself in the activities of your community.
  • No wonder so many older people continue to populate church committees.

What is the right age to slow down on mentally draining jobs? I don’t want the risk of being a mental wreck in old age”

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Without defining what you mean by ‘a mentally challenging job’ you have enabled us to delve into a subject close to my heart and one that is receiving increasing attention among the now few remaining ‘baby boomers’.

This is the generation of people born between 1946 and 1964, and in the developed world constitutes about 20 percent of the population while in Kenya the number is closer to seven percent of the population. This is an important group of people in part because many are mostly either in retirement or about to. I belong to this group and in addition to the challenges of retirement; the only other subject that preoccupies them is grandchildren and the number of pills one is currently taking (the pill age).

From a societal perspective, this group is important because it has reduced capacity to contribute economically to society and most are consumers of services. It’s time came and went. Other generations that are recognised are Generation X, Y and Z. For clarity and completion, those born before 1945 are referred to as traditionalists or the silent generation.

The youngest baby boomers are, therefore, aged 55 years and also ready to retire in the civil service in Kenya. The oldest baby boomers are in their mid 70s and mostly retired. Your question, therefore, is what age is best for a person to hang up their boots and ‘go home’. Is it for example better to retire early or later in life? Are there professions that require earlier retirement than others? Psychiatrists in the UK for example are able to retire before other doctors.

Not surprisingly, the evidence is not as clear as one would like. Some evidence, however, suggests that those people who remain active into old age are better off than those who simply retire and watch the clock tick by.

Indeed, clock watchers not only do badly mentally, but their physical health also seems to deteriorate faster. So, the simple answer to your question is that it is best for you to continue engaging with the world through your body and mind. Reading in particular is a good way of keeping your mind active. You must also make sure that you remain socially engaged by involving yourself in the activities of your community. No wonder so many older people continue to populate church committees.

This line of thinking might be seen by some as too simplistic. It is possible to argue for example that if one has a mentally and physically demanding job, a time might come when one feels it best to slow down and perhaps get into a second or in some cases third career.

A number of Kenyans have retired from their original jobs and have gone back to school to begin on a second career. Some teachers and nurses for example have gone to university and trained and become counselling psychologists. Their argument is that their experience in their first career stands them in good stead because of relevant ‘experience’. A number have done well but most have been spectacular failures because old people have slower brains that do not learn new skills as fast. A number have gone on to become mediators for the same reason. Again their success has been variable.

In a similar vein some people have retired, gone ‘home’ and found life impossible. They have gone to the rural areas expecting to change the way things are done only to find that rural folk have their very orderly way of doing things that have been tried and tested and found to work best without the interference of the newly retired.

LIFE AT 40

This has lead to a sense of frustration and feelings of irrelevance and in some cases this has led to depression or excess drinking or even finding a new more ‘understanding’ wife. Sadly this new wife comes with other demands, including more children.

To deal with this challenge, some companies run special programmes to prepare staff for retirement.

Is it really true that if you have not made it by 40 the rest of your life is ruined? Many years ago, a man in his 30s made this claim and in the process upset many of his peers. On hindsight, what the young man could have said with greater certainty and accuracy is that if one has not put in place clear plans for retirement by the age of 40, then he must expect problems in facing retirement and old age. So, what plans did you put in place for this stage of your life?