Wednesday, June 22, 2016


Based on: McDonald, D. (2000). Not to yield. In T. Koch, M. Annells & M. Brown (Eds.), Still doing : twelve men talk about ageing (pp. 115-131). Kent Town, S. Aust. : Wakefield Press.

When Don McDonald retired, he felt that he had stepped out of a very rewarding phase of his life. He felt that he had closed the door to a life filled with people, noise and action. He felt adrift but he consoled himself that he would now be able to march to the rhythm of his own drumbeat. He had to remind himself that retirement would give him the opportunity to explore new horizons. One of these opportunities was in the form of being able to spend time reading aloud to his wife who lost her vision after a stroke.

Retirement also enabled him to find meaning and fulfilment in domestic chores like cooking and keeping the house and garden tidy. Retirement spurred him to involve himself in the University of the Third Age (U3A) which is a network of older people who are interested in learning for its own sake. Don found enthusiasm and purpose by trying to light the “fires of curiosity” in the English language through teaching a class called Words Alive in U3A. Involvement in the activities of U3A also gave Don the opportunity to meet and know people with different kinds of attitudes and interests.

Retirement is the pause button of life, a time for reflection on the meaning and significance of life. Growing older should not be an excuse to stop learning. Rather it should be the opportunity to focus on the kind of learning that we are really passionate about and interested in. Teachers are also learners for it is a poor teacher who does not learn from students. Tennyson’s words can indeed be a guide for older folks:

Though much is taken, much abides;
And though we are not now the strength which in the old days
Moved heaven and earth; That which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts made weak by time and fate, but strong in will;
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

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