What Do You Want To Do After 60?
Coping with the new stage of life
Recently, my 83 years old grandmother moved in with us. She was living alone in her old flat ever since all her children got married. The flat has no elevator. It means she’ll need to climb flights of steps before commuting anywhere since she lived on the 5th floor.
Thank God she’s always been healthy. Taking stairways to the fifth floor was never a problem for her. Instead, I would be panting every time I reached her house to pay her a visit.
Grandma loves to tell me how she used to walk miles to work when there were no cars and buses. Her family would need to carry buckets of water from the well far away when water wasn’t something that comes from the pipe. She’s proud of her story.
Owing to her age, our family started to worry about her safety living alone. What if she falls down the stairs? What if something happens to her in the middle of the night? What if she gets robbed when she walks to the market in the morning? It’d probably be too late by the time we know.
As our concern grows, we’ve requested grandma to move into our house. However, she rejected. No matter how many times we try, she would refuse. She doesn’t want to “disturb” our family. She wouldn’t want to live in a neighborhood she’s not familiar with. She doesn’t want to adapt to our lifestyle. She doesn’t want to lose her freedom.
So, no choice. We don’t want to force her. All we can do is to visit her whenever we could. If we couldn’t, we would call her just to make sure she’s doing well.
However, the day has arrived as we’ve expected. She’s developed some health issues that refrained her from going back to the 5th floor. She was forced to stay with my family though she insisted to go back after she’s recovered.
As my home is the only place where I work, I became the person who interacted with her most when everybody is off to work. This is where I get to know how her daily life looks like.
Every day, she would wake up at 6 am. After breakfast, she will start reading the newspaper. Newspapers and television are her only entertainment. But she doesn’t watch the telly all the time. Sometimes, she would call the relatives to chit-chat. When she’s tired, she will take a nap.
So, what would she be doing when those activities are not available or she doesn’t feel like doing them at the moment? Well, she would stare into space and daydream. Whenever I walk around, even just heading to the bathroom, she would have her eyes on me, monitoring every movement of mine.
This is how her life looks like in the past 20 years. She has no friends, no hobby and no interest.
“Do you want to try gardening?” I asked her.
“Nah, I don’t have that kind of interest.” She replied.
“ What about knitting?” I tried to find her some activities.
“I’m too lazy to do that.” She said.
It makes me wonder, what’s her meaning of life? But I dare not to ask…
All I know during that moment is retirement sucks. And I don’t want to live my life this way.
During dinner time, I received a call from my mom’s friend. She is in her 50’s and has always been close to us. She used to bring me to places and took good care of me when I was a kid. Today, she still treats us well and always shares good food with us.
When I picked up the call, the voice from the speaker said,
“Hey Kathy, let’s talk business!”
I was bewildered.
“Huh, what business?” I replied with confusion.
“I want to start a business with you. Let’s meet up tomorrow and talk about this.” She replied with excitement.
So we met the next day and she pitched her business plan to me.
“To be frank, I need money. I want to earn more money.” She said.
“ Why? What happened?” I was so worried if something awful happened to her.
“No, it’s just that… I want to achieve my dreams.” Her voice was filled with passion.
She told me there are 2 things she wishes to achieve when she’s 60 and she’s excited for her new stage of life after retirement.
Her first dream is to study art therapy in a university overseas. She has a strong interest in art and studying in a university has always been her dream. She wants to use her skills to heal and help people with psychological disorders.
Before she told me about her second dream, she said,
“What’s the point of having so much money in your 60’s? It doesn’t follow you to your grave.”
She already had enough insurance plans that would secure the rest of her lives and luxury was never her thing.
“ I want to give back to society, I want to build an art center in the rural area. It’s just a place for children to draw, nothing else. They can draw whatever they like and I can guide them a little. I will provide them all the art supplies and even meals for free. Money should never be the thing that hinders their creativity and passion. I hope they don’t face the problem I used to have…” She elaborated.
“ I’m really serious, you know. If possible, I wish to help the children to sell their arts, maybe online. Ideally, a small part of the profit will be used to maintain the center and the rest will be saved as the children’s education fund in the future. ”
From her voice and her eyes, I can tell she’s really serious and passionate about it. Her enthusiasm touched me and I want to be part of her plan too. She redefined the meaning of life after retirement to me.
It reminded me the last time I visited a national museum in Taiwan. My family was surprised to see all the staff working at the reception counter are senior citizens. There were 4 of them. My mother couldn’t hold her curiosity so she went ahead and asked.
“ Oh, we are all volunteers!” A friendly staff told her.
“ The workload here is extremely light! It doesn’t even feel like working! All we gotta do is to be present and answer the tourist’s inquiries. We’ve been living in this city for more than 60 years and we are more than happy to share what we know best about this beloved city with the tourists! It’s great to have so many friends of similar age here and still be able to contribute to society. I’m happy to have my own value even at this age.” She explained with a big smile on her face.
The conversation inspired me and enlightened my mother who will be retiring in 2 years.
Life after retirement shouldn’t suck. You are the one who defines how your life will be after 60. You don’t need a big dream to live a meaningful life. But having a good plan after retirement would certainly enrich your life. Find your own value no matter how old you are. A fulfilling life is key to lifelong happiness.