Age


I’ve been procrastinating as to writing a post for a while now, it’s about two and a half years since my last post and we moved back to the UK last year. I thought I’d start with a post about change.

Well surprise! It’s about excitement! untitled

I attended The Guardian Debate last week, the final Ageing Population Quarterly to discuss innovative solutions to the consequences of ageing, (already a slightly problem focused tone to the title).
The panel of speakers kicked off the debate with some rousing references to opportunities, especially encouraging employers and business to welcome people working longer and of course more volunteering.
However it didn’t take long for the discussion to revert to the well established gloom with regard to Ageing.
One of the fundamental aspects that were not addressed on Wednesday was the perspective of the individual entering this period of transition into “a next stage”. Dr Lynne Corner (Director of Engagement, Newcastle Initiative on Changing Age) referred to the potential opportunities of this next stage, however we didn’t examine how to support the individual to make informed choices or who should coordinate and lead on providing objective, impartial support and advice.

I left the meeting frustrated, and quite frankly angry at a missed opportunity to “capture” opportunities.

It so happened that a day or so later I heard the Head of Foundation Studies at the University of Creative Arts Canterbury talking about what they looked for in applicants to the Foundation course.

“Basically it comes down to a sense of excitement”, he said, “an enthusiastic interest in what’s next”.

It occurred to me that we seem to have lost sight of a sense of excitement at the prospect of the gift of some 25-30 years of life that an Ageing society provides.

This is the picture that came up when I searched for an image of an excited older person.

imagesB8G5ISSU

Let’s nurture, or more likely re-kindle the sense of excitement for what’s to come, (it ain’t gonna come again).

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We’ve been away since my last post in April anticipating coffee in Milan but more of that  soon.

In the meantime I note that today Brazilian Maria Gomes Valentim the world oldest person has died aged 114!

Shortly after we left on our travels on 14th April Walter Breuning, the World’s oldest man died in Montana aged 114.

It seemed appropriate to pay tribute to these two folks in a blog focusing upon Coffee and Change (and Age) as apparently last month, Maria Valentim, who was known as Grandma Quita, attributed her longevity to a healthy diet: eating a roll of bread every morning with coffee, fruit and the occasional milk with linseed.

In an interview last autumn, Walter Breuning attributed his longevity to eating just two meals a day, working as long as he could and always embracing change, especially death.

After moving into a retirement home in the 1980s, Breuning spent his time just talking. Here’s a bit of advice he left for generations to come:

  • “I think every change that we’ve ever made, ever since I was a child – 100 years – every change has been good for the people. My God, we used to have to write with pen and ink, you know, (for) everything. When the machines came, it just made life so much easier.”
  • “Life begins each morning whether we have succeeded or failed or just muddled along. Life is a school to learn, not to unlearn.”

Farewell fellow coffee and change devotees….

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jun/22/worlds-oldest-person-dies-aged-114

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/apr/15/world-oldest-man-dies-at-114

On the 5th April Marc Freedman (Civic Ventures founder and CEO) published The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife. I have yet to get a copy but I’ve scanned through a few of the abstracts; it’s looks to be great.

The Big Shift is an impassioned call to accept the decades opening up between midlife and anything approximating old age
for what they really are – a new stage of life, an encore phase that constitutes something entirely new.

One of the observations Marc makes is…… “There’s also a question of identity. What’s the category for people like me? There are a growing number of us who can be classified as neither-nors. Neither young nor old. Neither retirees nor of traditional parenting age. ……….Yet we were all unsure of the path from what’s past to what’s next. We lacked a language even to talk about this change, which felt for many simultaneously self-indulgent and imperative.

I am reflecting upon what am I? (Again) and the term retired!

I know that I have been frustrated in recent years by being asked what am I? i.e. what are my circumstances with regard to society’s view of economic activity…..basically “am I in full or part time employment?  or….. Retired……..

Retired!… The term seems so final …….that’s it…….finished……removed from the game…..given up….the Thesaurus offers some other similar references for retire….. “Withdraw, go away, give up, leave, turn in, call it a day!

Why is it that at a certain age if you are not employed (full or part time)….then you are not “part of the system”?

What about other situations? Other terms that reflect circumstances and capture hope and dreams…such as actors & musicians often are “between jobs”, in transition, “well I’m an actress but just waitressing for now”…..”I’m studying”…….”I’m a student”…..(does that only apply for young people?)

As Marc argues in The Big Shift we need new words to reflect a period after mid life and before old age and…..maybe we need to capture a new dreamtime…..as first nation Australians devised? How might we encourage ourselves to dream new expectations for this new vista of time that we are fortunate to look forward to and discard the term retired………How about reflecting…….or reconfigurating? …..re-gearing? Or perhaps Reposing?

“In a dream you are never eighty” – Anne Sexton

 At all other stages of life we are subconsciously moulded by role models of what’s expected, what we expect, society, our parents and peers expect of us at/by certain ages.

 Let’s acknowledge and celebrate this new territory by charting new language. What expectations & dreams purposeful exploration and development might  we realistically look forward to for ourselves in our 60/70/80s?

 What might we achieve and be….How do we learn to dream of being 80?

 

 

My father used to joke with his doctor that he was keeping him alive longer than he could afford. He died aged 86.

His expectations and template for later life were based upon his father’s experience and his father’s before him……

I recall reading somewhere that about 50 years ago most (men) retired in their mid to late 60s and probably died within an average of three years. The model of retirement was just a few years “pottering around”….

All that’s changed…….and is still changing…….

  • Statutory retirement at 65 and the state pension were introduced when the average length of life was around 50.
  • Average length of life is now around 80 and the average retirement age is 61. 
  • Therefore the post-retirement period may occupy a quarter of our life.
  • Another 22 years of life for the average man of 65 – another 25 for the average woman of 65.
  • More people are reaching 65 (8 in 10 men and 9 in 10 women).

 But we haven’t changed our view of what’s to come……understandably the advice and warnings are around financial provision and health concerns… but few coax us to think about our dreams for this quarter of our lives…(That’s  a lot of cups of coffee).

 We’re used to being encouraged to have expectations and dreams for other stages of our lives but not it seems for this quarter of our life.

 It’s like training for a marathon and somehow not thinking about the last 6.5 miles… sort of getting three quarters of the way through the race and then simply hoping for the best….. so in the New York Marathon that would be like crossing over the Willis Bridge into the Bronx at 20 miles and forgetting about Central Park!

I’m savouring a cup of Finca El Carmen Occidente from El Salvador in my favourite cup.

We’ve now returned from spending a few days in Paris last week celebrating my 60th birthday with friends and family. A great time!

Contributing to my excitement was following my post – Le Cafe en France est étrange!  Grant Rattray at Mercanta recommended I visit Café Soluna or The Caféohèque whilst in Paris.  http://www.cafeotheque.com/index.php?langsite=en  It’s located just opposite where we were staying on the left bank. We managed to visit on three of the four mornings we were there.

A couple of coincidences, we arrived the first time on Saturday 10th and met Gloria Montenegro, the owner. She was excited to show us an article by Oliver Strand which had just been published on Thursday 8th in the New York Times….. http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/08/ristretto-why-is-coffee-in-paris-so-bad/

The Caféohèque is definitely a find, David Lebovitz considers it “the best coffee spot in Paris” (“Living the sweet life in Paris”, “I find most of the coffee served in Paris cafés undrinkable, so I’m grateful for the existence of Soluna Café (52, rue de l’Hôtel de Ville, 4th), otherwise known as the Caféothèque.

http://www.davidlebovitz.com/archives/2009/03/paris_favorites_eating_drinking.html 

I also was interested to read Julie’s post about Coffee in Paris on her excellent blog  According to Julie  http://www.espen.com/julie/archives/2008/02/coffee_in_paris.html

Most French cafés use Robusta coffee, which is cheaper, can be stored for longer, and is generally considered to be of lower quality than Arabica coffee. About half of the coffee beans imported by the French are Robusta beans, according to the International Trade Forum. US coffee imports on the other hand, are composed of 76% Arabica and 24% Robusta. Canadian and German imports are similar to the US, and the Nordic countries barely import Robusta at all.”

A great blog to read by the way…

I returned the following day to order some green beans as Gloria said she would not be there on the Monday and Tuesday. I mentioned to Gloria that it was my birthday, I was 60 that day, she congratulated me and said it was her birthday on the 19th !   Coffee Arians together!

I met Bernard, Gloria’s partner, as well when I collected my beans on Monday. Happily we made good use of our friends’ buggy as it would have been literally a drag to carry around 7 kilos of beans for the rest of the day.

Gloria and Bernard exude passion about their coffee, they have created a delightful, easy going atmosphere in which to relax, and drink and enjoy good coffee.

What better way to celebrate turning sixty!

Ah! How sweet coffee tastes! Lovelier than a thousand kisses, sweeter far than muscatel wine!  -“Coffee Cantata”, J.S. Bach

Every now and again a friend prods me to write something about aging given my focus and involvement between 19996 and 2006 in the public sector with improving quality of life for older people.

We used to point out that it’s one of the last great unknowns….we are creating new footprints into uncharted territory as the world’s population is living longer and  we have no forbears experience as to how to deal with it!

There’s a lot written about aging by many professionals; gerontologists, social care, actuaries, economists; the Government get exercised every now and then urging the public sector to prepare for the changing demographics… which largely goes unheeded. The default focus is health and social care… especially as  the UK elections loom. The majority of blogs and articles I happen to read focus upon health and care issues so I was interested  to read the post on The New Old Age blog by Paula Span, although the focus was still about attitudes to the  “problems” of aging. 

Will Boomers Be Any Different? In 20 or so years, when we baby boomers enter the ranks of the “old-old” ourselves, will we be any different?

http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/04/will-boomers-be-any-different/

But then, maybe in my innocence, I was taken aback by the apparently large amount of negative resentment the post drew. 

In a later post Paula writes:- “I was pondering this month whether the next generation of old people will have values and attitudes different from the current one. I’d intended the post as a way to mull over whether some characteristics that cause widespread complaints among families –  intransigence about accepting help, for instance — were related to membership in a particular cohort as it aged or were products of aging itself.

Is the Greatest Generation (do these folks owe Tom Brokaw, or what?) more apt to be so single-mindedly independent that its children go a bit nuts trying to provide care? Or will its children, the multitudinous baby boomers, behave the same way when they round 80?

What ensued in the comments section was mostly an anti-boomer slugfest”.

How sad that we seem reluctant not only to accept aging (and changing aging) but also nor to learn about change.

So to return to the prod…..I continue to be fascinated by other emerging indications that we are discovering hand and footholds to traverse this new territory……beyond the usual dominance of dealing with “problems of aging”.

I discovered recently Advanced Style. I think this blog does more to profile aspirations and “on the street reality” of well being for people of age than a lot of the well intentioned but slightly patronising obsession with health. It features… fun, dignity, independence and hope!

Its strap line is Proof from the wise and silver-haired set that personal style advances with age. http://advancedstyle.blogspot.com/

Maybe we should look more to the Arts, fashion & design to highlight what shapes our changing attitude to age.

Another day, another week, and yet another coffee! Today it’s Nicaragua El Limoncillo (a taste of toffee apple, sweetness of caramel, juiciness then a bite of green apple acidity).

 

Change by KMcCollumBlair

Change by KMcCollumBlair

 

Sipping my morning coffee I have been musing upon what drives my fascination with change. When embarked upon the adventure of roasting coffee at home I read that there are two types of people, those that like to achieve consistency, the same quality guaranteed every time and then there are those that enjoy exploring the difference, the unknown, the new. I guess I fall into the second category. I’m a baby boomer, born in 1950, the year of the Tiger. I grew up with change, I expect change and I enjoy being a part of the change and shaping it.

 

When I was a kid there were only three colours of ice cream – white, brown and pink (taste was yet to be invented), I remember us getting television and it wasn’t until I was a teenager we got a telephone. Oh yes  and at the end of the film at a cinema they’d play the National Anthem and you were expected to stand!

 

I don’t know what memories stick out for you as experiencing significant changes which are now a norm? Not just technological advances, new gadgets, but being witness to the shock of new ways of thinking and doing! Hey we now have civil partnerships, same sex marriage and female priests!

 

It may seem quaint and surprising now but I remember the scorn and derision surrounding the introduction of the term “Ms”.

 

I remember watching the first Moon landing. I was working night shift in a bakery, the live screening was on in the canteen, I was fascinated that there was quite a large group of guys who refused to watch on the grounds that it was an American hoax and had been mocked up in a studio.

 

The London Marathon originally refused to allow wheelchair entrants.  

Things do not change; we change.  ~Henry David Thoreau

 

As The Demos pamphlet “Eternal Youths” http://www.demos.co.uk/files/thenewold.pdf   

 

Baby boomers have transformed every station they have passed through and show no sign of stopping in old age. As a result we must confront the conceptual framework we use to think about ageing.

Although perhaps a little too much a stereotypical image is of a generation that rebelled against the establishment and existing social order by taking to the streets and which produced the founders of a range of social and political movements from the feminist to the environmentalist to the civil rights movement.  

Contrary to previous generations and myths associated with older people, baby boomers like me are uncompromisingly militant as consumers, more anti establishment, more non conformist, less deferential, less trusting of those in authority and more hostile to organised religion.

 

I’m also curious as to what stops us making changes or accepting change. The enemy of change is often the paralysis of “should”, our cage of presumption of how things should be. I’m now 30, 40, 50, 60 and “should be/have”…..married, have children….settled down… a career… “made it by now”…retired… It’s not just fear of the unknown but a conceptual prison of our making as to how things should be, a construct of our lives before we even live them. Change is about challenging our limiting self beliefs about how things should be and clarifying how we wish them to be.

 

Hmmn so now what coffee shall I try next?

 

 

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