Saturday, February 18, 2012

Iki Gai

The Japanese seniors of Okinawa with a reputation for living longer than the rest of us claim that one reason for their longevity is what they call iki gai. A reason to get out of bed in the morning. A purpose in life. They may be caring for great-grandchildren, tending a garden, meeting with friends, or painting a picture. Or they may be doing all of these things. The idea is to have something to look forward to each day.

In 2008, the Bureau of Labor Statistics told us that the average American senior watches television for almost four hours a day. It seems to me that TV is a huge waste of the limited time we have here on earth. And no wonder so many retired people complain of boredom! Sitting around for hours every day staring at television programs aimed at a viewing audience with an IQ of about 50 should bore anyone to death. Various polls taken in the US over the past few years show that 47% of people of retirement age read less than ten books a year. I can't imagine that! I have read six books this week! My worst problem is that I get so involved in a good book that I find it hard to put it down and get anything else done.

One of the good things about living in a community in which so many people are retired is that there are lots of opportunities to keep yourself occupied. Although I'm in Mexico, I would imagine that it is similar in any area with a large population of retired people.  Have you ever dreamed of becoming an artist? Sign up for a drawing or painting class at your local community college. You may never become a Van Gogh or Monet, but what difference does it make as long as you are enjoying yourself? Think of this as an opportunity to remember those dreams you had as a kid. The ones you had to give up because you had to find a career that would pay the rent and put food on the table. Most communities have groups of people who get together to share a love of quilting, cooking, gardening, writing, or photography. Or how about a theater group?  Did you ever see yourself as a teacher?  Volunteer to help at a local school or teach English to an immigrant.  The possibilities are endless.   

I often wonder now how I ever found the time for work. I saw retirement as an opportunity to do all the things that I didn't have time to do before. Now I can't find time to get to all the things I thought I would have time for after retirement. I find myself moving from one obsession to the next. One week I'm working in the garden. The next I may be drawing or painting. I'm studying French and hope to one day rent a little house somewhere in France for maybe six months so I can really learn the language. And I write every day. And read.  Maybe someday I'll also find the time to reorganize my grandfather's stamp collection or look for more information to add to my genealogy files. Since I plan to live at least as long as my grandmother, I've got another 39 years to get to that stuff.


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