If we could turn back the hands of time...

They say old is gold and experience is the best teacher. People who have been there, done that, share the wisdom they have gathered over the years on money, marriage, relationship, family and the basic rules of living a fulfilling life. 

Money will earn you respect in society, but not happiness

Livingstone Omukote, 62

I have attended ceremonies such as burials back in the village and observed how rich people are showered with respect. Such people are given a lot of attention at events while those who don’t have much money are overlooked. It is always evident that the amount of respect you command is measured against the weight of your pocket. It never really matters how wise you are. I learnt this the hard way. 

When I worked in the police force, I had a lot of money which endeared me to most people I came across. I was accorded an elder‘s attention whenever I attended events in the village.

When I quit my job and stayed out for five years, the situation changed. People stopped coming to me for advice. Even my children started disrespecting me. All the while, no one knew what my plans were, I quit my job to pursue a different career path. I also had some decent savings in my bank account but the fact that I was now jobless, not may people wanted to associate with me.

Money gives you a good place in society but it never gives you the happiness you need.

-Retired police officer turned scholar

There is no perfect age for marriage

Florence Makau, 61

People generally bow in to societal pressure to get married especially when their peers get married. This brings about desperation which can sometimes push someone into settling down with people they never planned to share a life with.

Growing up, I could have chosen to be this kind of girl but I didn’t. During our time, it was uncommon to find 25-year-old girls still in their parents’ homes. I never got married until I was 28. We were exposed to basic sexuality issues at 15. It was only after a suitor was identified that our grandmothers taught us the intense topics of motherhood and the responsibilities of becoming a wife.

It should never really matter what age you get married at. The right person will come at the right time. 

Makau is a counsellor at Child’s Life Kenya

Family is everything

Prof Wanjiku Kabira, 69

My family has always been my anchor during the busy life I had as an academic. It was unfortunate that the peak of my career was also a point in life that I was raising a young family.

But I always created time for my babies and took them to joints where we could grab snacks and talk. As one grows older, they realise that the family is the only place that you are accepted the way you are. In a world full of competition even among friends, the family is the only place where no one competes with you.

It is where even the most famous people go back and seek genuine acceptance when all is said and done. To my family, I am not a professor but just a person. You can never replace family with a career or job. I always advise young entrepreneurs, especially young women to always create time to be with family. You will never get time unless you create it.

Prof Kabira is a renowned scholar and an associate professor at the University of Nairobi

Always put God first

Mwajumba Ramadhan, 60

Many problems we go through these days stem from overlooking the importance of God in our lives and in the lives of our children. Teach your children how to pray whether you are muslin or a Christian. Introduce them to a place of worship at the right time. Enroll them for religious programmes if you can. As you age, you start to realise how easy it is to deal with issues when you put God first.

Ms Ramadhan works at Alfajiri Empowerment Group

There are no shortcuts in life

Francis Gatheri, 72

Those who took the long, tedious and painful journey to success eventually make it in life. I decided to embrace the quickest way to enrich myself before I even hit 30.

I had the best opportunities in life and I would have succeeded had I been patient in school. Coming from a well-off family, I was lucky to go to Starehe Boys Centre but I dropped out shortly before I sat my final exams.

I started abusing drugs, ran away from home and hid from my parents for many years. To survive, I became a thief and in no time, I started doing things that I regret up to now. At 29, I was apprehended and imprisoned and spent many years behind bars. When I was released in 2006, I decided to turn over a new leaf.

I had learnt tailoring which took care of my bills for a while. At some point, I wasn’t making any money, I fell ill and the only way to survive was through begging. I ended up in a home for the elderly where I feel I have had a second chance in life.

If I was to take back my years, I would definitely take another path. I would get a good education, look for a good job and get married. But in my place, all I can do is offer advice especially to young men.

-Mr Gatheri lives at a Nairobi-based home for the elderly

Not all men are the same

Hamsa Ahmed, 74

I didn‘t have the best husband in the world but I acknowledge that there are good men and women out there. He did bad things to me but I still stuck with him since he was the father to my kids but again this is a personal choice.

There was this time my eldest daughter wanted to get married, my husband made plans and invited all his friends and his side of the family without even informing me. From my experience, I know too well, there are good men who make good husbands out there and there. Same case applies to women.

Ms Ahmed is the founder of Mchanganyiko Women Group

If something is not worth telling, keep it to yourself

Fatima Abeyd, 73

Many times I trusted friends with my secrets and got disappointed. Genuine friends are hard to come by.

Only God and sometimes close family members can be trusted. The first person you should trust after God is yourself. Before you go seeking advice out there, have an idea of what you want. I have seen many marriages destroyed because people confided in those they thought were friends. I have a friend who shared her matrimonial problems with a woman who was the cause of the problems. Never share your nakedness with strangers. I see this always on social media where people pour out their hearts to strangers.

Ms Abeyd is founder, Kenya Anti-rape Organisation

Working for your own money sets you free

Jane Kabole, 52

I‘m involved with a group that deals with gender-based violence in Kibra and I have realised how relying on someone for upkeep highly contributes to violence in homes.

Go out and do something for yourself.

Sometimes you have to take up jobs you never thought you would do but the joy of having your money is incomparable.

Jane Kabole, 52, works at Interfaith Women for Peace and Development Group

Parents‘ curse

Duncan Gachuru, 104

Never let anyone replace your parents' place in life, not even your spouse. Before you agree to settle down with a man or woman, let them understand the place of your parents in your life. Always call your parents and go home when you have time.

While I grew up, men hardly provided for their families. It was the role of a woman to till the land and harvest enough food for the household while men enjoyed the company of their friends at drinking joints. I spent many days in the forest as a freedom fighter and also took my singing skill to many places.

All the while, I knew my wives were taking care of our children back at home. But I always came back home to collect bride price when our daughters were ready for marriage and everyone was okay with it. If you don’t take care of your children these days, there is a high chance they will neglect you in your old age.

Mr Gachuru lives at a Nairobi-based home for the elderly