Nowhere in T+T to find a Peaceful Place to Retire

It was early on a Monday morning, as  I dropped in at Cephas’ Bar on my way to  collect my Pension Cheque,  when I had the rare chance to enjoy some quality conversation with Cephas himself for a short while.  

Cephas is usually too busy behind his bar to have any time to talk in great detail with customers, mainly retired men who come here from early morning to bask in the sun entering his porch and guzzling drinks until after 12. noon.

This afternoon, I was therefore pleasantly surprised at Cephas easing across to my usual corner where I was sipping my beer and watching the football match while listening to three young fellas nearby talking about their adventures.

“You bringing out the J’Ouvert band this July?” I asked Cephas on seeing him handing out a few tickets  to customers who had paid in advance to attend the upcoming early morning fete in the National Stadium.

That’s where he showed me he had virtually gone into Retirement mode.

“I done with that”, he said. “Too much stress and confusion and I can’t get the younger ones to take it over”

Cephas  then explained how his schedule as he approached the pensionable age of 65; how he had charted a course for a cool retirement  where the only focus – to use a word I had suggested about what he could be doing with his time –  was on his two grandsons.

“ I’ve already started  the routine of taking them to school, picking them up and playing games with them in the park so they can learn boy days from early, he explained.

As Cephas  went on about his various plans for retirement, I found myself wondering at the number of men, like myself. upon whom Retirement had come like the proverbial   thief in the night.

In this mode, they now find themselves  wholly dependent on the government pension which, at $3,500 a month, can be considered “decent” – if your lifestyle was usually pegged at this level.

For men who still have children in University – especially abroad – and for those old cockatons who were charged (and actually believed these mothers) with fathering  children in secondary and primary school, they can have a real challenge stretching this monthly cheque.

That’s why you see them pretending to be liming at some places but are really performing duties such as Security Guards,  Watch Men or Couriers, trying to conceal the fact from their colleagues.

Pensioner robbed of personal documents in Arima

That this Pension age is a very dangerous and complex time, can be seen in the number of old men who have been violently robbed on pension day, with a number of them being murdered by boys and girls who can be their sons, daughters and grand children.

In what must be a reflection of the very creative ways in which the better educated young people can plan crime, here was the tragic case of  a couple who had collected their massive National Insurance Lump sums and went to deposit it in the bank.

When the ever alert and apparently customer friendly clerk observed how much money was passing into their account, it seemed that he collaborated with a female relative to have them sign the cheques over to her name, then slit their throats at home where the cheques were easily extricated from their dead hands.

Quite apart from fears of being robbed and murdered on Pension day, old seniors also often face problems at home where they find themselves under pressure to contribute money to pay for much more than they consume in what is usually their own house.

This leads to 

  • Depression,
  • A tendency to leave the house and stay out as long as you can, and 
  • A penchant for drinking puncheon rum and  escaping into nice place in the mind with friends on the street corner, on the main road just near the grocery.

The  cruel irony is that many of these now-discarded seniors have a great deal to offer in terms of historical intelligence which can be well applied to current situations when considered by young people willing to listen.

It’s in this connection that a friend of mine has been moved by the active responses and initiatives taken by a number of persons in reaction to a project he is currently planning and which he had the courage to encourage a few people to get interested in. 

Imagine if government officials could call in these people and offer them informal briefs to present solutions to certain key problems.

And even so,  quite apart from this being described as pulling teeth by some, others have revealed how their ideas have been quickly stolen and reproduced by new owners, while  the original architects have found themselves standing hatless in the rain outside the  offices of government ministers like Social Affairs Minister Donna Cox  where they had hoped to be working for the national good.

Another moot point happens to be of great interest as regards the dichotomy which begins to show itself  to everyone – except the seniors – between the steady mind which the old man thinks he has, and the actual lag in his body movements which do not match his will.So seniors may think they are stepping in sprightly  fashion across the road but, to the driver waiting for him to pass, this could be aserious test of patience.

The same thing  applies when they have to enter and come out of a taxi; 

Take out money from a purse or pocket to make a purchase in the grocery; 

Walk with an agile, speedy child to school, and

Take a piss in a public bathroom.

With all these challenges facing them therefore, it’s no wonder that we find our seniors lurking in the shadows, conscious of the way they are becoming  obstacles in the lives of the very children  they nurtured from small.

One option  which seems to be taken up by many these days is the Homes for the Aged which have their fair share of mixed reviews.

Whatever the outcome therefore, we as a society have to take up responsibility for ensuring the care and safety of our seniors who now occupy 13.4 % of the voting  population, according to the Division of Ageing,

and are growing at  a faster rate than the modern baby makers who now face the  clear and present danger of being neglected in terms of their  valid need for attention.

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