Ihave lived a very long time. Tomorrow, it will be exactly 94 years ago that a midwife with a love of harsh gin and rolled cigarettes delivered me into my mother’s tired, working-class arms. Neither the midwife nor my mother would have expected me to live to almost 100 because my ancestors had lived in poverty for as long as there was recorded history in Yorkshire.
Nowadays, when wealth is considered wisdom, too often old age is derided, disrespected or feared, perhaps because it is the last stage in our human journey before death. But in this era of Trump and Brexit, ignoring the assets of knowledge that are acquired over a long life could be as lethal as disregarding a dead canary in a coal mine.
I have been living on borrowed time since my birth in Barnsley all those years ago: I survived both the depression and the second world war. Even in advanced old age, because I walked free of those two events, I feel like a man who beat all the odds in a high-stakes casino. It’s why I’ve embraced each season of my life with both joy and wonderment because I know our time on Earth is a brief interlude between nonexistence.
Still, many people persist in thinking that old age is the end of one’s usefulness or purpose, which could explain why the news that women in South Korea can expect to live into their 90s has been badly received. Some fear the indignity that old age may bring, or the dependence it may cause because of physical or mental impairment. On occasion I too worry that before death sets in on me that it may rob me of the elements that make me who I am. But ultimately, having experienced the profound indignity of extreme poverty during the 1930s and the sheer terror of war in the 1940s, I know that life must be battled until the bitter end.
Eternity is just around the corner for me but I don’t fear my death. I only regret that death will end my dance to the music of time, no matter how slow the waltz has become to allow me keep up. I know that my physical wellbeing and dignity may yet be affected adversely by the government’s self-created social care crisis but I will not spend either my last years or days living in fear of the Tories. I cannot because I have seen their kind before in the 1930s and 1980s and know that the only way we can beat the tyranny of austerity is through our own personal defiance.
People should not look at their approaching golden years with dread or apprehension but as perhaps one of the most significant stages in their development as a human being, even during these turbulent times. For me, old age has been a renaissance despite the tragedies of losing my beloved wife and son. It’s why the greatest error anyone can make is to assume that, because an elderly person is in a wheelchair or speaks with quiet deliberation, they have nothing important to contribute to society. It is equally important to not say to yourself if you are in the bloom of youth: “I’d rather be dead than live like that.” As long as there is sentience and an ability to be loved and show love, there is purpose to existence.
I learned a long ago time ago that there was wisdom and beauty that could be mined from the memories of those in the sunset of life. It is why as a boy I listened in rapt attention to my granddad as he lay dying from cancer and told me about his life both as soldier and miner during the reign of Queen Victoria.
All of you, when young, will make your own history: you will struggle, you will betray some and others will betray you. You will love and lose love. You will feel profound joy and deep sorrow and during all of this you will grow as an individual. That’s why it is your duty when you get old to tell the young about your odyssey across the vast ocean of your life. It is why when death does come for me – even if it mauls me with decrepitude before it takes me – I will not lament either my old age or my faded youth. They were just different times of the day when I stood in the sun and felt the warmth of life.
Blogging is great fun and here are 32 good reasons to blog. I have never earned any money from blogging and I don’t expect to. I blog because it gives me a voice on the Internet. I have over 5k subscribers. It is very creative I design my blog and it pleases me. It is not difficult and provides you with a permanent record. Also it is free. You can be up and running in 30 minutes. Read the 34 reasons. Not all will apply but you have good solid reasons to start a blog.
Here are the first 5 reasons to blog:
1. It helps you learn new things
Blogging is about sharing what you see, or want to see, in the world. It’s about teaching or sharing what you know and what you, too, are learning. When you start a blog, you’ll find yourself always learning new things about your areas of interest so you can keep sharing without running dry of ideas.
Think of it this way: when you set out to wash clothes, your objective is to clean the clothes, not your hands, but it’s your hands which become clean first.
2. It makes you think clearer
The ability to think clearly and generate ideas is one of life’s most critical skills, yet one of the things you don’t get taught in school. Blogging fills that void, helping you grow your thinking muscles exponentially.
You’ll learn to reflect deeply on your life, your relationships and your society; engage with others intellectually, appreciate the strengths in arguments and point out the flaws in them; appreciate the tiny distinctions between what, why and how; the nexus and disparity between excuses and justifications, and so on.
3. It helps you write better
Many things have boosted my writing proficiency over the years: essay contests, tapping from mentors, reading books, etc. But none of them has challenged me so consistently as blogging.
Here’s why: writing mastery comes with constant practice and blogging is just about that. In his epic book, On Writing, Stephen King discusses how once he didn’t write for several weeks due to an accident, and how when he started to write again, his words weren’t flowing well.
That’s how inconsistency weakens your writing muscle, and that’s why blogging, which keeps you writing regularly, helps you write better.
4. It builds your confidence
I used to be a timid introvert. Until I started blogging.
Blogging helps you learn to voice your opinions, dare to be wrong and stop being so scared to make mistakes. With blogging, you learn to recognize and build your strength, and also admit and improve on your weaknesses. With conversations happening on your blog, you learn to hear flattery without being carried away and take criticisms without losing your cool.
5. It helps you speak more coherently
A great speech starts with a sound script. The more you learn and share ideas about your areas of interests on your blog, the more comfortable you get discussing them verbally.
And over time, you grow confidence to face an audience and manage your nervousness on your subjects of interest. Soon, this diffuses to other verbal conversations.
Forums are a great way of facilitating communication. The RSA* is currently evaluating forums for use of fellows and not-yet-fellows.
A lively (sometimes) conversation has been initiated. We are testing various platforms to host the forum. Slack, Discourse and ZetaBoards have been touted. We are using Slack at the moment as our main forum. I like ZetaBoards, it is fairly simple and robust. I like the layout and I have used such a board in the post.
You can see it in action at http://Forum.OlderCitizens.com become a member to see all the features though you can view it as a guest. I am also looking for admins if you have an interest. Become a member first and have a tour round.
There is an instance of Slack set up at http://OlderCitizens.slack.com
The RSA Fellows test forum for discourse is at http://commonspace.discoursehosting.net/
If you are a group or organisation wanting to facilitate members communicating then setting up ZetaBoards could be the way to go.
The RSA are planning to come to their decision by 15th March? We will see however whatever their decision I will persist with ZetaBoards.
So come join our forum (s) and get yourself known, increase your digital literacy level.
*The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) mission is to enrich society through ideas and action.
We have been at the forefront of social change for 260 years thanks to the support of our Fellows, a global network of 28,000 people who share our values.
Today our impact is greater than ever. Fellows have access to the brightest new ideas, innovative projects, a diverse network of like-minded people and a platform for social change.
If you support our mission then we want to hear from you