I’m thinking about various attitudes towards old age. I’m thinking about people who are Almost Old (which might be you), and how to best prepare for a future when we’re Very Old. Because even at 80, I know I’m not Very Old yet. I’m saving that category for when I’m frail and failing. Of course I see it coming, and after 80 it can arrive in a single cataclysmic day through an accident or a virus.
Which brings me back to these common attitudes towards old age. How about this for a list?
- conversationalist (enjoys talking about what old age will be like)
- strategist (thinks big and plans for old age)
- redeemer (proselytises about aging well)
- dreamer (sees old age as opportunity for adventure and growth)
- tryer (reads tips about aging well and tries to use them)
- denier (is never going to be old)
- passenger (takes life as it comes) (I wrote drifter but it doesn’t rhyme)
- manager (systematically prepares for old age and micromanages the process)
Don’t think for a moment that I disapprove of any of these attitudes to old age. I know many adorable people in every category. The thing is, we are who we are and we’re all of a piece.
I approach Very Old age like a business project
My own approach is hopelessly nerdy. Inside my private sphere I’m a manager: I’ve made a valiant attempt to prepare for Very Old age in a methodical, systematic, evidence-based manner. I spent a year doing a Boot Camp for the Bonus Years, devoting one month to each of 12 aspects of my life that needed attention.
I set myself Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound goals, I was the subject and object and lab rat for a 12-month personal project. I started new habits and I changed my environment. I was Responsible, Accountable, Supporting, Consulted and Informed and guess who was the project manager? (OK OK, I know I’m also a dreamer and a wannabe redeemer.)
Now for me personally this Old Age Project, while obviously bonkers, was a huge success. I had such a good time, for one thing. I like projects. I particularly like difficult projects. And I prefer to have slightly too many projects on the boil, so the year of the Boot Camp was good fun for me. (Too bad if it mystified my friends and family.) And as a result of the Boot Camp, I gained confidence: Very Old age is not nearly as scary as it was before, and from research, I know I have far more control over my own old age than I ever imagined. So far, so good.
And yes, the project is agile, and it carries on with maintenance, mini-audits and reviews.
How many people want to treat their own life as a business project?
B*gg*r all, I reckon.
Excuse me, let me rephrase that. I would guess that around two per cent of humans would find this systematic, methodical approach to old age even remotely appealing.
And fair enough. In the immortal words of Judge John Hodgman, people like what they like.
Every approach to old age brings certain benefits. I can see that.
Even so, the wannabe redeemer in me would love to help anyone who struggles with the fact that they are Almost Old, especially as I know this great truth deep in my bones:
When you’re worried, doing something (even the tiniest little thing) brings relief and confidence. Doing nothing increases your anxiety.