#ThinkingAllowed: 60 is the new 40s

I love to hear people’s stories. It’s one of the fascinating aspects of the career I have chosen. Only this week I met a fishmonger at the chain Poppies in London. They do a great fish and chips and won the National Fish and Chips Awards 2014. Yes, there is an award for that too!
I was fascinated by the passion of Salih Sadik, who has been with them since the very start. 52 years ago! He was talking to me about his work, how he receives a daily delivery of fresh fish and how he goes about preparing for a busy day ahead.
It struck me as interesting that whilst other people who have been working for their entire lives may be talking about retiring (there are some who start highlighting this much sooner) here was a man full of energy speaking about the complete opposite. He is a living example of the old proverb “choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life”.
But, what happens when you do have to retire, whether you wish to or not? Many people dream of retirement, but does it live up to the expectation? This is not the movies and very few will be moving on to sipping Chardonnay on a balcony overlooking the sea in the French Riviera.
Everyone is an individual and each will approach retirement in their own way. Some will want to enjoy a quiet life, others may reinvent themselves. This is why I found the news of local lawyer and politician Robert Vasquez so interesting. He announced on Facebook this week that at the age of 65 he would be taking up an MA in Newspaper Journalism at City University.
He has decided to take a step back from law, after 40 years, but will not be giving it up completely. However, instead of using the time to relax he is embarking on another adventure. Why?
“I will not fully retire but, in any event, for me, retirement is doing something, not just existing quietly: Retirement is an opportunity in today’s world, in which, all things being equal, we live far longer than when the age of retirement was decided. It is an opportunity that I am grasping with relish, ambition and happiness by studying something exciting and new”.
Robert also told me he doesn’t intend to set himself any parameters as to what he will do once he graduates. “Achieving an MA in journalism will widen my choices at an age at which choices are viewed as narrowing. I intend to join the few that buck the trend,” he added.
Ok, not everyone is able to – financial, family reasons etc… But, isn’t it so interesting that someone wants to do this?
I’m very aware and passionate about campaigns to address loneliness, particularly in old age. The last thing someone wants is for retirement to lead to that. I recently highlighted the example of the 89-year-old war veteran who placed an advert in his local paper to stop him “dying of boredom”.
I asked my good friend and former boss Richard Cartwright for his take on it all. He retired almost 12 years ago. So, what does he do when he is not at his local cafe having a chat or enjoying a cup of coffee (he still likes it with just a single drop of milk if I remember correctly)?
“I believe you have to start thinking about your retirement before ending employment. If you’re a serious DIY enthusiast you don’t have a problem. I decided I wanted to write articles and was approached by three magazines. I was also lucky in that I continued to do what I liked best: presenting a weekly programme on radio and another on TV.” Because after a few seasons of Talk About Town followed by a quiet spell Richard is back on GBC with The Collectors. However, this is not all he does: “Writing, presenting and looking after grandchildren and still you’ll find there’s free time on your hands. What’s absolutely important is to keep your brain ticking and not allow it to remain dormant. Rise early don’t give up and become lazy!”
Like Richard, Miguel Gomila, a retired Notre Dame head teacher, also found in retirement the energy to dedicate time to something he loves – music. A former clarinettist and Band Sergeant Major with the Band of the Royal Gibraltar he was musical director for a number of high profile Gibraltar Musicals. He was also a Rock guitarist with a local group before his teaching career. Now he is “enjoying time with music and family”.
Because it’s never too late to follow your dreams he too is an “A” student having completed online music courses with the Berklee College in the USA. He said: “After retiring I felt I now had the time to dedicate myself to pursuing my music at a more serious level”.
Again, another example that retirement doesn’t have to be the end of the line. Miguel also believes that “retirement can be as active or as sedate as you make it”.
He recently submitted a piece to the 2016 edition of the Maurice Ravel Film Soundtracks contest which reached the finals, received special mention and won a prize for the Action genre.
It doesn’t stop here for him because he has also been accepted by a stock music site as one of their artists. “They will be representing me selling and licensing some of my music for film, TV, Ads, in-store, etc worldwide”.
But, does it take a certain kind of personality to do this? What drives them to do more with their lives? It’s a question I put to Robert Vasquez. He said: “I would encourage others to do something similar. That said many do in different ways, for example, by dedicating more time (than they now have) to hobbies, reading and self-study. I do not believe one has to undertake a formal academic course but the added available time, as one grows older, can be and is used fruitfully by many. There is a saying “life is long”, we should live it and use it to the full: I intend to as much as I can”.
For many, work gives them a routine to follow and they may feel lost once that routine is gone. I suppose that living in Gibraltar makes us lucky. The extended family is still a reality and those who are grandparents play crucial roles in helping with grandchildren.
However, whilst some embrace the change following retirement others may find it traumatic.
Just because you are older (I have purposefully avoided saying old), just because you are retired, just because you may feel lonely sometimes – doesn’t mean you should give up on life. Live to the fullest. Let 60 and beyond be the new 40s.

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James Neish
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