Identity and getting older

By J. Keuskamp – Josina van Schaik, Netherlands

On the following pages you will find some interviews with older people from different countries in Europe and in Israel.

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Dirk Broekman (62), Holland

Getting older softens the character of the inner struggles and my life is more directed by the purposes and intentions of living. It gives me more space to listen, gives space to the voice of universal, sustaining values. I build a new identity with qualities as foundation for development of greater independence. An identity that is always learning new, observes, is open and alerts to gather a new consciousness. My life is a deliberate investment to give returns by the means of developing of what was still latent at birth. I give a return by assisting where help is needed and to pass on to others what has come to fruition as result of meaningful development. In this phase of my life it’s obvious that it’s good to pass on the lessons of life and experience to the younger generations. They can benefit from it and build further upon it and cause it to evolute for generations after them. Also I help the elderly and assist in the last phase of their life.

At this age, a lot vanishes that has no purpose or function: to fit in some picture or image, to adjust to demands of others looses territory in me. That gives peace and settlement and surveillance, it makes me kinder and softer. It forms a new identity that gives of itself and not because others demand that. It teaches me to look in a new way to my environment and my life partner, with whom I’ve built a new bondage based on mutual respect and nourished by wisdom. That causes a better, more useful partnership and cooperation with the feminine gender in general and what the ‘Feminenza’ represents.

Anne Koole (66), Holland

I’m learning to see that everything is connected to everything. The big question is: what is the role of the human in all this? Why are humans made the way they are? Why is the human on earth? What are the influences upon the human and how can we learn to discern what fits and what does not? Is it possible to make contact with realms that are more permanent than me, in the spiritual and religious spheres? If so, how can I then give service and returns to that? With these questions and many more I choose a different direction and then my whole being tunes itself to the future and I step away from well-known paths that belong to the past. The question ‘what do I serve at this time?’ gives me the opportunity to stand still and reflect inward and reform myself so that I can make proper decisions and choices.

Choices I make all day long but what counts is, on which level and how much are these choices conscious and what reasons do I have for making a decision? Then it starts to work like a mental diet. And keeping to a diet requires discipline! This discipline is not put upon me from outside but self-chosen and it opens doors for me to real freedom because it’s a self-chosen path. Now the guidelines in my life are to do no harm and to live and let live; it shows the urgency for development at another level than we are used to, because who wants more pain in the world? No one. It’s us who block the liberation by going through life often so unconscious. By telling your soul which direction you want to take, the soul can be the best guide there is; it’s made for the job. But I am as a human always the one who starts the dance. Everything on earth seeks to grow, and why would I then not want to grow? My ‘universal identity’ parts want to be liberated and now I am getting older that is the time to do it. What is abandoned at one side makes space for something else to grow on the other side. At this moment the issue of identity and what identity I want to form is keeping me busy quite a lot.

Especially the question of whether what I do actually contributes to my own development and that of other people. I want to make that development conscious as best I can.

Ute-Barbara Leutloff (69), Germany

Since I stopped working, I have an honorary job in my profession, but things to do with profession and whether you have wealth are all outer things. The real identity life is through what you are, what you represent in your genetics, your character, your development. In my own case, my social identity changed completely when I dropped work; it was a big relief to have time to do what I want in the time I want and in the speed that I want and I found out that I am much more effective then. I did not fall into a black hole at all, because I was already interested in philosophy and took up the philosophical work more deeply and more practical and that can occupy you and keep you busy for twenty years each night. And I had this plan about how to live in my old age because you can only be free in what you want to do if your domestic circumstances are settled, you know where to sleep and live, where to get your money from. I don’t have children or a family connection so if I want to have a safe place in my old age I need to look with whom to stay.

That’s why I initiated the ‘Living Project’. We organise ourselves in the way it was in former times in that the old help the young and the young help the old, and live together not because of being family but because of self-chosen companionship. In this old and young project, everybody has their own flat, but there is also a common room to meet together and can have activities together. I saw in my surrounding when there are only old people and they only see other elderly - maybe sick or disabled - they get depressed. It’s not a natural thing; it needs the exchange between the old and the young, these ages represent different identity formations and they need each other to pass on the vitamins of each age. The old people have gathered a lot of life experience and can, if the young want to, encounter them and look after the children. Just to equal out, if the younger meet a situation the older have gone through them, the older one can say, ‘look, this is what I did and it worked for me’, and in return the older can i.e. ask ‘can you switch the electric wires for me?’ I can have exchange with the young, be useful, do something to make life easier for the young, for the mothers when children need to go to kindergarten and so on. It is as it was before, but now on free chosen basis. I like to be practically busy and useful. My identity is forming in my purpose of being of use to others, especially to my elderly companions. My other purpose is to work on my development and to prepare for my death, because I am convinced that there will be life after this life and I think, like is understood by religions, that you need to be a good fellow to come into ‘paradise’, so it’s necessary to look at your dark pits and to work on it, and build identities like awareness, honesty and all other good things and good human qualities. I began to look to what I can do for elderly when they are sick or are coming to their last days, if they wish to settle something, and I started to train myself as a bereavement counsellor, so that I am better able to give a response to comfort them. This training will be needed in this living project with elderly people. I can try to alleviate the situation, ask if they have thought about certain things or want certain things done. In nowadays time you can also say to people: ‘I believe there is life after and how will you pass the door to the afterlife?’ I try to convey to younger people to think that you too will get old, which is a message that mostly the young avoid and are not willing to listen to. I have some in my surroundings who never thought of it and now they come to the situation and have nothing prepared for being out of job and have no identity to handle that, and they are so afraid of getting old uselessly. Being an old human is beautiful because you’re free to do what you want and it’s really like the freedom you get as a child before getting to school and you just can enjoy your life. You can have as much life as you want to when you get old, as much as you can manage.

Of course you can’t do certain things anymore, but I would offer as an advice to everybody: don’t look at things you can’t do anymore but at things you still can do. And that is more every time than you think. From that angle, life is much better.

Helena Orsackova (66), UK

I work partly in helping a disabled young lady at home. It’s interesting in a sense, when I look from the perspective line of my working life, that when I looked at disabled people they did not appear to me as productive. When I started in this area of working with disabled people, I slowly but quite naturally, found that I had my last lesson to learn. It changed how I looked at identity. I learned that I respected these people’s lives in being as much as independent as they can still muster, because when they were younger they were bright in body and mind. So, I learned quite a lot and admire them and I came to see that true identity is not in how productive you can be but how human consciousness can overcome limitations to make the best out of any circumstance, adjust and be creative. Because these people don’t have much movement in the body, but they are mostly not sour, they have faith and take life as a gift from God. I feel it as a privilege to support them. It is similar to getting older, because the body gets lesser and you get lesser productive in the economical sense. But it seems to me that the mind can be even more economical, because you put less restraints on yourself. When one gets older the identities change, the patience with ‘am I doing this well, what do they think about me?’, that is long gone. The government of my identity now is ‘why do I want to do this?’ and just do what pleases me. Of course it’s a ‘do no harm’ please: I can do anything as long as I don’t do harm. I can be always supportive to others of the same age, so we will be growing old together. I’ve realised that the significance of this older age is that I could not care less what others think of me, because my confidence is kind of normal and it gives confidence to the others. I can’t say I have any problems with others, I can’t even say that I don’t like this person or like that person, I embrace them all each with their own identities and eccentricities. I don’t have struggles in dealing with others anymore. While you’re working for production there is all this rubbing against each other, but when that drops off, the life is much easier. What I realised in this age is that you actually attract by what you send out. It’s so clear, that if I am under stress I am not attractive for something good, things go suddenly wrong and I have to deal with that. If I am in my identity of settlement with life, if I am clear and of good mind and give with value addition, everything goes well in the day. So I create that part of my life and I really take it to mind that we are the authors of our own book and we really are responsible. I believe you create your own old age identity. Of course I don’t know whether I will be fit and able for ever, but I try to create it in my mind and therefore have it. I know people of my age can die suddenly, so I’ve prepared everything for when I die, made my will, prepared a self chosen strengthening ceremony and so on, so I’ve done the practical end, and that leaves me much more time now to be with my inner lives, my religious lives. I’ve become ‘hooked’ to these processes that are to do with the higher reasons and purposes for life and not being based in worldly worries. There is a quiet knowing, that life is not about going to work, although that needs to be gone through, it’s about freedom of exercising goodness and decency, compassion, for everybody to feel safe. To engage with people in good values and decent standards of exchange like knowing you’re not going to be gossiped about, to be able to leave your handbag and nobody is going to touch it. I could not imagine my life without these extremely important values, I always tended towards kindness, from young age, yet they are rare and need our protection otherwise they get lost in the worldly worries. I am so pleased that I found these values along the journey of my life and I find it my privilege and responsibility to pass it on so they will remain part of our collective heritage and don’t get lost. What I would want to leave behind for the younger generations is to be a person of understandings, to do no harm to any generation so that whatever gave us life may continue here.

I arrived from Czechoslowakia in the UK in 1960. After some years of settling in this new land, I realised that I had to go now and then back to replenish my root identity that was always there. Later I found that the behaviour of my relatives that formed my initial planetary genetics almost seemed alien. I got additional codings, which over the years reformed and overlapped my original identity. I expected when I get older to retire there, but I found that I’ve grown new roots into a different reality, which is not to do with any country, and the relationships that I have built with people are based now in a higher appreciation about living on the planet. I’m fascinated by the mysteries of living and dying. Is it a journey from birth to death, or is it death to life? Both appearances, to my perception are the most religious events in anyone’s life. Is it not that birth is a beginning of the spiritual journey here on earth, from the unseen worlds into the planetary environment, and what we call death a step from the planetary ecology of the unseen parts of oneself into the realms of a dwelling place before the birth? At birth the human child enters the world for the purposeful journey to gather special religious essences and qualities. All the stages of man’s life journey have their own influences with learning’s to undertake with openness and joy. At the end of this personal religious experience this wise old person comes to understand that the end of their life on earth a new identity has formed which is a beginning of a new spiritual adventure and continuance of existence in the unseen realms.

Judith Pocock (69), Wales, UK

As I get older the deep things are absolutely crystal-clear and settled in me. I don't identify with my body anymore, and I refuse to get old – that is, I decided not to get old in the mind. That's why I keep learning new studies and have an intensive voluntary workload counselling and lecturing. I don't need to please anyone; I don't need anyone to confirm me that I exist and therefore have a great sense of freedom. This shift to detachment comes on its own account; you can't force it. I live much more in the now. Look, it's wonderful to get old; it's a time of condensation with everything condensing into crystals that have now set themselves as sequins of my own connections. After menopause starts the waning of the ebbing time, gradually intensifying. Ebbing got a bad press, rather like death. Why's that? The most natural and wonderful thing in the world with bad press! At what age does old age begin - yours? There are 3 stages of different identities in life – young, middle, old – and these form a tripod for growth. So, what is the real role of this third age? I believe it has a particular function; the 3 life ‘forms' need each other for the tripod of stability, and unless the time of old age finds a way to return its acquired richness and wisdom into young age, from which to build an elevating middle age, the newborns that follow will have less content and must weaken over time. So, we need to harvest the fruits of life into a legacy to give away so others may build new strength and new hope. What is it in us that avoids or denies ageing? What are our fears and why do we hide them away. It's far better to get them to the surface and speak about them openly - look them in the face. I am just so pleased not to be in my middle years any more: at 60 you ‘get religion' whether you like it or not! What you've made your religion is the question. Why do many people die within 2 years of retiring? Have they placed their actual life in their work, and therefore they die when work dies? It's important to question this; you see, I think that you identify with what you process and you become what you think about. The driving force of the activities of my life is now driven from elsewhere, and I can consciously access who and what I am usefully. The truths of my own life are now visible to me- and to those who have the eyes to see. The ego shrinks (yippee!) At last I am now what I am, for better or worse. In acceptance of this and hence inner settlement, I feel that my spirit can now flare. The life that dwells inside does not age, it accumulates.

You cannot look past death into your future. One way or another you have to make death part of that future and how you want to be when you die. Old age is a totally new adventure: it's like a, new teenage with new processes, but now with wisdom. If you deny this, you deny what made you come here in the first place; and if you are not firmly attached to the purposes of your causations, you are wrongfully based in all you do, and that then becomes first premise in forming identity. I go into old age openly, with trust, faith and knowledge that the life inside me is going somewhere – but this time beyond the planet. Youth runs its strengths and the great waning of old age makes its claim, but the qualities we've built our inner selves upon are our resume for what comes next and I am absolutely prepared to go there any time now, knowing I will go where my life has built its outpost by what it signals here.

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