Old age is approaching faster than youth fled, let it not catch you by surprise

As you age, you will need each other more than you ever did. [iStockphoto]

I have spent the last couple of days with ageing parents which has forced me to momentarily deflect from the immediacy of politics and reflect on what I believe is the coming storm for many urbanites.

For many of us first-generation urbanites, we have seen our parents either age in the village or relocate there to retire.

Fortunately for that generation, they still had village connections including property and close liaisons.

For them, the village offers the community support that they need in their old age.

The village has concerned relatives, “passing by” neighbours and local churches that focus on their core constituency, the aged and ageing.

When they can no longer support themselves, our parents can look up to us for sustenance; our generation was socialised to take care of our parents in their old age and so financial support and regular visits to check on parents is routine.

That has not been the story of many octogenarians who have aged in the city. The urban areas are brutal and are not structured to development of close-knit communities.

I have watched many previously dynamic men and women struggle in their later years with abandonment and loneliness, even where they are adequately resourced.

Woe unto those who get into conditions that require intimate care like dementia and do not have the resources to employ professional caregivers.

The fate of these urban retirees awaits many of us. We have no village to retire to.

Even if there is land out there, we are totally disconnected from that society. We have no urban communities.

As for our children, they have not been socialised to take care of their parents. While we have incomes currently, soon we will not be earners.

Many of us in business will soon not have the energy needed to remain in charge and must hand them over to others.

Meanwhile, we will still have financial needs. Even though our recurrent expenses of school fees and such like will not be needed, we will have new expenses called medical expenses, many of which are rejected by our exploitative insurance companies.

As our retirement years approach, I have some suggestions.

Firstly, invest in family and think community. Your spouse will soon be the only constant and consistent company in your life. Do not take them for granted.

As you age, you will need each other more than you ever did. Invest in strong peer relationships. Many of us are oversupplied with acquittances and hangers-on with few peer bosom buddies. The latter will be an asset in the later years.

Secondly, plan now on how you will survive economically. Once you stop earning, your greatest need is going to be cash, not assets. Work towards converting your assets to cash and near-cash assets. Diversify as much as is possible.

I have watched many asset-rich gentlemen and ladies struggle with basic upkeep, trying and failing to sell property or collect rentals in time to pay for their urgent needs.

Thirdly, think health. There are many decisions about diet and lifestyle that we are making now that will impact our later years’ health. While there are no guarantees on good health, let it not be that your recklessness caused you pain in your most vulnerable years.

Research on what changes you need to make in your lifestyle and make them now. Finally, consider how you can still be useful to the community in those later years.

There are numerous opportunities to add value to society and to give it the benefit of your life’s experiences. Start planning for and working on those options now.

Truth be told, old age is approaching faster than your youth fled, let it not catch you by surprise.