Are we having fun yet? By Anne Blacklaws

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Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. Mark Twain

It is quite a shock to have reached the age that looked ancient when your grandparents and parents were “old”.  It came along so fast! And I guess that means that the next part of our lives, the “golden years”, will also go whizzing by.  But one of the keys to having fun at any age is to focus on the present and not be disabled by fear of the future or regrets about the past.  A little bit of FOMO (fear of missing out) is good motivation to make the most of the gifts that you have right now; time, common sense, learned skills, health, resources, people you know.  We can be happy with who we are, where we are and what we can do, rather than focus on losing the past or dreading the future.

The biggest contribution to fun is freedom from a rigid diary & calendar.   I love waking in the morning, having tea in bed & not traveling in the rush hour traffic.  I love going cycling, exploring, visiting places and camping during the school term and on weekdays – no need for reservations, no need to book. I love staying up late and sleeping late, or going to bed early and getting up to see the dawn – which ever I feel like today.  I love being able to go outside when the weather is good, or choose to delay some tasks and stay inside when it is cold or rainy. It is amazing to have a little extra time to watch the sunset, or the grandchildren playing, or the other people doing their shopping. As the Welsh poet WH Davies says,  

A poor life this, if full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

I really enjoy the fact that no one really notices or stares at me.  I am just another “older woman”, so I really can wear gardening clothes to the shops.  No one expects me to be fashionable or slim or gorgeous. My body has made it this far, so I can feel far less guilty about cheating on my diet.  Along with freedom from a diary, comes freedom to savour things, time to listen properly to other people, time to read a book, watch the waves, call an old friend, make a new friend.  I started a bookclub because I was battling to enjoy reading; and I found new friends and new books.

Another big factor in making this a great time to have fun, is choosing not to complain.  I sat in a beautician recently, treating my rough ugly feet to a pedicure – what a lovely feeling of scrubbing and tickling and massaging.  I sat in relaxed bliss – that is 45 minutes that definitely whizzes by. What a pity that the lady next to me spent the whole time talking about herself and complaining.  I don’t think she enjoyed her pedicure. Complaining can spoil anything and everything. Complaining has spoiled friendships for me – either because I was too cynical or they were too full of moans.  It is a real challenge to fight against the slide into a negative attitude. Our wealth of experience can help us see how to overcome problems, or it can make us just foresee the problems. I have to stop myself from complaining about how much people complain!  It is not just here in South Africa where we have so many excellent reasons to complain; in many other countries older people have a well earned reputation for being bad-tempered and grouchy. If we want to have fun, we have to kick the habit of being grumpy.

And we can choose not to live in fear.  New things can be fun; for example, when my husband and I were well into our 50s we learnt to sail yachts.  We were inspired by a couple we met who had sailed around the world when well into their 70s. What a scary, wonderful experience it has been to set sail across new seas!  We have found little ports, dolphins, amazing food, quiet starlit bays, crazy people along the way. And thunderstorms and the terror of crossing the container ship lane. Fear cramps our minds and our bodies; it is so easy to see someone who is full of dread – they look down and walk slowly.  Of course there is a chance of trouble in absolutely everything we do; work, marriage, children, travel, friendships, making a home, exercise … all have possibilities of danger. And all have possibilities of fun which we will never know if we are frightened of trying. A way to help conquer fear is to “lighten up”, look for the humour and joy in a situation.  I love being in a situation where there is a mixture of ages; there is always more laughter, more unexpected charm, more points of view to ponder.

My academic research showed that the biggest problems confronting elderly people are loneliness and lack of meaning.  This is a problem for people of every age and life stage. How can there be lots of lonely people? In this problem is the solution;

if you want a friend, be a friend.  

We can have meaning if we look outside our own life and needs.  As we include other people, our lives expand in unexpected ways.  Doing something that is not only for your own personal benefit … brings meaning, value, joy and even fun.