Old in Years, Bold in Spirit

Old in Years, Bold in Spirit​

I’m too old to ever be young again but I can’t wait to get older.

I had the epiphany, rather improbably, during a visit to Zara, the high-street fashion store. I was lingering in front of a rack of colourful, printed pants when my style-savvy (and, clearly, wise) son came up from behind and told me, rather firmly: “Mom, don’t buy that. You’re not old enough or young enough to wear them.”

That’s when it struck me. We are not used to people over a certain age adorning their bodies and enjoying themselves. But self-expression is not only for the young. Old people—having already stood up in the battlefield of life and dodged the bullets successfully—can afford to live on their own terms. Their dues to society have been paid; all they need now is good health and a modicum of money. With that in the bag, they can travel at will, wear what they want and do whatever their mind and body allows them.

And so the lucky ones do, unhindered by public opinion or family pressure. Marketers understand that, and play it up in TV commercials and videos. Think of the best ones; they’re bound to star kids and/or oldies. A couple of years ago, when people were filming themselves dancing to Pharell William’s song Happy, the more charming videos featured old folks.

That’s because, as researchers found out some years ago, anger declines slowly from the 20s through the 70s, stress drops down the charts in the 50s and people around 60 are content overall. Much like the very young, the elderly have sass and free-spiritedness on their side. Children are unaware of the tyranny of social mores; the old have moved beyond it.

Ever since the Zara day, I’ve been observing old people around me. The experience has been most illuminating. This is a world free of pretence and posturing. When the elderly want something, they simply ask for it. When they like something, they declare it. No coyness, no hedging, no pretending.

A friend’s widower father, in Delhi for a visit, came home for dinner once. Introduced to my very elegant, reserved aunt, he clasped her frail hand in his and greeted her almost like a courtier. She looked at his aged but still-handsome face and broke into a large smile. They sat together and chatted the whole evening, their heads close together, their voices lowered to an almost-conspiratorial whisper. They were not bothered about anyone else; and no one bothered them. Can you imagine that happening to a younger couple who’d just met?

I know a gent who lives with his wife and daughter. A retired lawyer, he wants nothing more from life than a chat with his daughter every evening and a Pepsi and a Kit-Kat every morning. You could say that’s unhealthy; I’d say it’s sweet. He’s unlikely to be around much longer; it’s only fair that he eats what he likes meanwhile.

Not everyone is that lucky. There are many elders struck by disease or deprivation. But even their emotions are on a more even keel than those younger. If there is any drama to be played out, they choose their own character. And dress the part. Sometimes in colourful, printed pants.

Courtesy: The New Indian Express

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