We were a small group meeting to discuss the work of one of us. It became a confession time when one a member of the group confessed that in anticipation of his sixtieth birthday, he had been deeply disturbed . Finding himself unusually depressed he traced the cause to the recognition that he now had to think of himself as ‘old’. Once he had nailed this, he felt better!
It was also a sort of problem it seems to Ian Martin. He is a human rights activist who has held very responsible jobs for the United Nations, Amnesty, the Fabian Society and many other enlightened organisations. Most recently he was the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya. He recently had his sixtieth birthday and celebrated it by writing an article in the Guardian this week which he called ’60 things I’ve learned at 60’. Here are some of them.
‘Grandparenthood is a beautiful revelation. You have kids, you know you will never experience that feeling of unconditional love for anyone else, ever, and then it happens all over again.
A heart-stoppingly beautiful miracle. …One of the very best things about being old is you no longer have to pretend to like hateful music…..In my experience, NHS bureaucracy will conspire to kill you….In my experience, NHS staff will conspire to save your life….I want NHS to be reformed and to remain in public ownership. Stop pretending we can’t do both..’
Martin doesn’t approve of the present U.K. government. ‘I cannot remember feeling the visceral contempt I have for this gang of posh sociopaths. As a rough guide, I would say any government that sets the welfare of the comfortably off above the welfare of the old, the young, the sick, the poor, the oppressed, the disabled, well call me old-fashioned, but any government like that wants hosing down the drain.
’ But then he says, ‘I abhor violence. It solves nothing…Saying sorry and thanks. That is what happens in church. People counting their blessings and acknowledging they have done wrong. I struggle to understand why some people want this to be snuffed out.’
He concludes, ‘people who “hate getting old” are idiots. Every year is a privilege – getting to 60 feels like a triumph. I have no idea how I made it this far. But I am very grateful…’