Had an appointment this morning with a Salvation Army financial counsellor. I rocked up a couple of minutes early and was told to take a seat.
I sat down in the waiting area opposite what is probably the chapel. It was crowded with elderly, most of them sitting in neat rows, but the rest standing in lines singing church hymns. That’s not my sort of music, but banded together in harmony they sounded fine.
I looked and listened, gazing at the grey haired people sitting there taking it in. Something about it was – the best word I can think of is disconcerting, though that’s not precise. I was going to write depressing, but that presumes it had a negative impact on my mood. It didn’t that. I watched thinking is this what it comes to? I could never see myself in such a place or time. I imagined, incorrectly perhaps, that this was some organised activity to keep the good elderly citizens occupied.
I don’t mean to sound churlish. To each his own, and it’s great that we continue to support our senior citizens. I would rather die than be part of that though. This is the thing that seems truly depressing to me, how once we reach a certain age the vast majority are effectively parked – in retirement, in retirement homes, playing cards, bowls, having cups of tea.
I know a number of people who reach that age and delight in the comfortable downtime they discover (though it’s not so comfortable for all). They speak of the social interactions and comforts in living in one of those retirement villages. I can see how it might be pleasant, and some seem downright luxurious. Perhaps I’ll feel the same when I get to their age.
What troubles me now is the seeming loss of relevance. The old people you see about you once made the world we live in. Sure, they deserve a rest, but they are not the inconsequential old duffers they can sometimes appear. Perhaps it is different when you get that point, a rich and rewarding life behind you, but to me, and from where I am now, it appears a dwindling.
Naturally I thought all this in personal terms. It was me there, or me in prospect at least. God knows my life has small consequence right now, but I fully expect that to change. Maybe when I tick those boxes again I will go more quietly into that blankness. But really? Life is of the mind as much as anything. We need not rage, though why not? My body will get surely old and parts of me may tire. I never want to be that quiet though. I want to think, be active, agitate, above all continue to believe I have something to offer a world that will never pass me by. It can be done because I see many who have.
As I sat there I could smell food cooking. It smelt like party pies, and sauce. That was afters, I thought. But then at the conclusion of my meeting I was invited to go get a meal there, a gold coin donation would do it. And bread – go grab some. I declined. I didn’t have the time, nor the inclination. Not now, hopefully not ever.