OK. Everyone got it wrong with the Australian elections but I’d venture this election prediction as an absolute certainty. A 100 year old German woman, Lisa Heise, is standing for the Council in a small medieval town of about 8,000 people. Lisa says she was, “ignored as an older person” but reaching 100 has given her a platform of attention. Doubtless she’s right. She’ll be a shoo-in.
Back in the late 1980s I was interviewed by an Australian writer for a book he was doing on Australasian entrepreneurs. He was an interesting cove and gave me a copy of his previous effort, this a book on longevity.
Older readers may recall back in the Soviet Union days, often reading of the USSR’s research institute on this topic, based in Georgia. Well, my bloke contacted them and they invited him to visit. The Institute was in Georgia for a reason, specifically that in its rustic small villages everyone seemed to live forever.
My chap then did some research and found the most similar society to the Georgian villages anywhere in the world was in a remote part of northern Pakistan. So he bowled up there to note the common denominators.
Both had largely vegetarian diets, only mountain trout excepted and then more for flavouring. But the most important factor in both was that no-one ever retired. Old people all had prescribed roles such as wood-chopping for fuel, gardening, baby-minding and so on. The concept of retirement was totally unheard of.
Lisa Heise’s complaint of being ignored will register with many women in their 50s, 60s and onwards. I’ve frequently heard them cry that they’re now invisible. I’ve also encountered many saying now the kids have gone they’d love to go back to work but no-one wants them.
Part of the problem lies in our sophisticated highly structured society in which unlike those simple Georgian and Pakistan villages, many jobs are unpleasant and narrow, particularly in the unskilled and semi-skilled fields. But in careers in which participants enjoy their work, we all know of people in their 80s and even older, boxing on because they love it. Not for them the retirement home attractions of organised line dancing et al.
For example, it’s widely assumed Winston Peters will pull stumps before the next election. I’m not so sure after all, why should he? Plainly he loves what he’s doing, so too Gerry Brownlee, albeit he’s a decade younger.
Lawyer still practising into their 80s are common-place, as also with many other professions but journalism in particular.
So what’s the lesson from all of this? It’s simple really. When assisting teens mulling their futures make sure they choose something they could envisage loving doing for ever.
There’s a lot of truth into it. My grandmother worked as a financial director into her 80s (she loved running company finances). When she finally retired, her mental and physical trajectory went down like a lead balloon. She simply stopped having anything to keep her sharp and that was that. One of the sharpest people there was and within a year she was just like any other ‘old person’. While being an FD might be too much, I do think we shouldn’t just discard people in such a binary fashion.