Irrespective of the massive distance in time that now separates me from the aforementioned, distinguished doyens of yesteryear; and despite negative, clarion calls regarding their irrelevance and inconsequential influence in the grand scheme of things 21st Century – they have nevertheless bequeathed upon us a fitting legacy pertaining to the undeniable values of social intercourse and communal integration – back to an era when personal communication was a face-to-face phenomenon – free from the anonymity of emails, internet conveyance and/or mobile telephones.
Physical contact brought with it an abundance of pluses and negatives too – yet, no matter if local conversation brought with it a potpourri of despondency, disquiet or delight – human contact during that earlier juncture, instilled neighborly compassion, care and camaraderie on a scale that is largely unknown to big city and large township dwellers modern day – we are becoming slaves to the electronic world – and prisoners within our own homes because of saturating technological ’advances’ – we as retired people, voluntary remain in a state of retreat – consumed with idiotic apprehension, thus denying ourselves the opportunity to integrate with those of a similar or younger/older disposition – ultimately damming our chances of securing the splendid longevity of our forefathers – laced with the chilling promise that fewer numbers shall stand at our graveside when the ‘big’ moment unavoidably arrives.
Aged we possibly are, yet more aged we shall unnaturally and speedily become – all thanks to divorcing ourselves from physical interaction and independent involvement with mankind.
My latter comment may not be of major concern to many who are scanning these lines today, however, I would personally reel at the abhorrent suggestion that those attending my ultimate inhumation, would be made up of attendees who knew of my email address and/or mobile phone number, but never had the pleasure of making my bodily acquaintance – ye Gods – a fate even worse than death methinks!
My own day of liberty from the inflexible and unyielding shackles that once bound me to nefarious nonentity – finally arrived during a morning visit to my nearby gymnasium, circa three years ago. As I crossed the threshold to this essential and very familiar facility, an undertaking that I carry out on a five times per week basis, my attention was immediately drawn to a gaggle of ‘mature’ representatives of the Berkshire community, ardently strutting their stuff on the unused basketball court – and powerfully singing along to the music that accompanied their group workout – I was in awe!
Their session finished shortly afterwards – and soon, thirty or so glowing and decidedly sweaty participants emerged from the arena, at best, a gaggle of antiquated, but hugely ebullient souls, who nattered in a manner that one would associate with an unruly band of schoolchildren – “See you next Thursday” – and – “I hope you have no aches and pains tomorrow” – being the general thrust of the highly audible chit-chat amongst the exiting group – I inwardly smiled and nodded approvingly at those who caught my eye as they hastily made for the car park outside.
Given the undeniable fact that most, if not all of the participants on the day, would never see 70 years of age again – my sense of inquisitiveness drove me into the hall to speak with the session leader, a lady with seventy-four summers under her belt – and one who goes by the name of Sheila Higgins. (She will forgive me for naming her in this article – I hope!!!)
As she addressed the issues surrounding my general intrigue and irrepressible admiration – I was duly informed that she held classes for her old and bold friends on the thrice-weekly arrangement, the youngest member being a spiritedly 73 year old, the most senior being a staggering 86!
She added further that I had arrived at the very moment when they were exercising and singing along to their favorite ‘warm-down anthem – namely, the old soul song recorded by Frank Wilson; ‘Do I Love You’ (Indeed I do).
It was stressed to me by the sparkling team leader in question, that this simple but vibrant record was in-place for both physical AND psychotic reasons, in that all who undertook her 40—minute sessions, concluded their workout with an melodic appreciation of themselves and all they had achieved during the course of their respective lifetimes – and of no one else – at that particular moment, I finally lifted myself from the all-consuming darkness and never looked back – slightly ashamed that it had taken the exertions of people much older than myself, to extol the priceless joys of life. No matter where we sit on the demographic ladder, it is there to be lived to the fullest – only if you want it, I certainly do!
As I now prepare to take flight and head to Edinburgh for the fitting farewell of a former teacher, I am reminded of a quote by the 16th Century Philosopher, Francis Bacon, “We cannot conceive of any end or limit to our world – but always as of necessity, it occurs to us that there is something beyond”.
Let this be the credo for all who are either retired – or soon to be retired.