Under fifteen chapter headings of his book, Wolpert continues to present a host of facts, figures and opinions about ageing. At present there are 10M of us over the age of 65 in the U.K., 1M over the age of 85 and in the next ten years that number is expected to double. The most rising age group of people imprisoned in Engand and Wales are the over sixties, He quotes the broadcaster Joan Blakewell whom we have met in these blogs before. At 70 she remains positive about ageing. ‘ In their leisure times the old aren’t just boozing and crusing: the hardier spirits are climbing mountains, visiting the pole, meeting sponsored challenges, making new friendships, especially with younger friends.’ She has great pleasure in the company of her grandchildren.
The author Doris Lessing, twenty years older, would disagree. ‘I am irritable and do not really like being irritable…my health is not as good as it should be..I am not outside gardening.
.I am not writing.’ Writing in the Independent Jeremy Lawrence has a more apocalyptic view. He refers to an ageing population as ‘the greatest threat to society. No invading army, volcanic eruption or as yet undreamt of plague can rival ageing as the breadeth and depth of its impact on society.’
Wolpert writes about the challenges facing people of advancing years, such as how to spend their time. The experts suggest that exercising is important – 30 minutes 5 times a week helps people to stay healthy.In one of many surveys the author has has looked at, one was how people would like to change their lives if they were able to. A fifth said they would have married someone else, half would have saved more, and three quarters would have had more sex. An unhappy marrriage must be a heavy burden in advancing years, and certainly financial insecurity is – there are 2M older people in the U.
K. who are poor, but the nostalgia about sexual proclivities is challenged by yet another survey amongst seniors which suggests that sexual activity declines only slightly from the 50’s to the early 70’s and can continue until the 80’s.( One does wonder how seriously some people respond to these surveys; or how honestly!)
Retirement is a significant experience or loss for many people. Wolpert confesses that he has found it difficult to give up work although as a scientist he can still go to seminars and he occasionaly lectures. He misses the research though recognises that he is now out of touch with recent developments. Though no scientist, I sympathise with how he feels. I have lost a sense of self-value and indeed personal identity since I retired sixteen years ago and although I too am in touch with my previous work, it is no longer the same and there is no way back to it.
But I am not as low as apparently Wolpert is sometimes. He wonders what the point of continuing to live really is. I suppose writing his informative book was one answer.
….more next time.