Katsuhiko Eguchi, 78, doesn’t go to his friends’ funerals. Isn’t his affection for them enough? Before retiring, he was a high-powered business executive. His life belonged to others. He met his obligations to society and now considers himself free of them. How many years does he have left? The life that remains will be his own, he has decided.
Shukan Gendai (Oct 5) applauds that course, and recommends it to all retirees. What is old age? It can be a long debilitating descent into death, or it can be what it is so often called, or miscalled – a “second life.” There’s only one way to bring it to life, the magazine says: Do what you want to do, and don’t do what you don’t want to do.
Social, family, friendly, even personal obligations weigh on all of us. Someone dies – we must go to the funeral. It’s a holiday season – we must visit or entertain the family. The offspring are struggling – we must help them financially. The grandchildren will come of age – we must leave them an inheritance. Here’s a notice from the ward office, warning me I’m late for my annual medical checkup. But I feel fine, I don’t need a checkup – good, I won’t go.
And with that declaration of independence, or something similar, you really do embark on a second life worthy of the name.
Inertia is a powerful force – it keeps us doing things we’ve always done, not because they’re enjoyable or useful but precisely because we’ve always done them. Take golf, for instance. Business people connect on the golf course – it’s de rigueur if you’re in business. Retired, you keep playing with the same people, which is fine if you like them and like the game, but what if you don’t? It’s a wrench, but refuse an invitation to play and set yourself free, the magazine advises – and if it hurts, think of the 15,000 yen you’re saving and can put to more satisfying use.
That’s relatively easy, but family is family, after all, and has its claims on you. If they expect you, or expect you to host them, at Obon or New Year’s, it’s hard to say no, and besides, it’s a pleasure – isn’t it? Not really. Same faces, same talk – about who inherits what property, and so on. Granted, you can’t keep yourself altogether apart, but, says Gendai, you can, at least once in a while, refuse an invitation, or refuse to extend one – and once you’ve done it once, the second time is easier.
School reunions are another thorn in the side of the elderly. Not all – some people enjoy them, but if you’re of a crustier temperament you’d be happier not receiving the invitation, which is in effect (or can seem like) an order. But the more you’ve attended, the more alike they all come to seem – same aging faces, same talk of illness, medicine, old memories too often rehashed. Skip it! says Gendai.
There are the visits to the ancestral graves – a pious nuisance, but a nuisance all the same. Why bother? There are businesses that specialize in gravesite maintenance, and it’s the feeling you harbor in your heart for the deceased that really matters, isn’t it? Of course it is, says Gendai – and as for your own grave, it adds, do you really need one? Can you really be bothered with funeral arrangements? Here, too, there are businesses that take care of that sort of thing, simplifying procedure and cutting costs. Good – that’s one more worry off your mind.
Shukan Gendai’s list of millstones to free yourself from in your old age is quite long. Here, one final one must suffice – that of regular medical checkups. Going to a hospital if you’re feeling healthy strikes the magazine as the height of absurdity. So what if your blood pressure is a little high? And if it’s something more serious, wouldn’t you feel it? Maybe you would, maybe you wouldn’t. What in life – in second life as in first – isn’t something of a gamble?© Japan Today