It was in the Preseren Square, in Ljubljana that I felt my perspective about old age change. Old age, hitting the post 60’s is something I have never heard anyone being excited about. But, life has its own way of changing the way we look at her.
When in Ljubljana, weary after a day’s travel, me and my husband sat down on one of the benches that lounged on the Triple Bridge. The setting sun painted the tops of the square in a beautiful orange hue announcing the beginning of a beautiful evening. I relaxed back to enjoy this Ljubljana scene unfold.
The square was abuzz with people young and old – Girls immersed in cheerful conversations, young college goers meeting up, people eating alone from takeaway cans, wannabes, skaters, women walking their dogs and some rounding up their grocery shopping.
I watched this interesting evening unfold listlessly until my eyes fell on an old couple. They sat, like young lovers, deep in a conversation – laughing, getting nostalgic, smiling, their eyes never off each other. The woman kept a hand around the man while caressing his ear gently. The man obviously pleased and looking immensely cute dint budge. He held a single ice – cream that they both shared.
As the young night illuminated the square, hunger pangs tugged me back to reality. We decided to move towards the river front restaurants to grab a bite. Before I left I stole one more glance at the so-in-love couple. What I saw left a lingering smile on my face. The old woman was laughing out loud, like a carefree school girl, while the old man continued with his joke. His face glowed with pride like a young boy in love who feels accomplished at making his girl laugh. As I contemplated the scene, the white bench, the stars above, the mild breeze and the triple bridge on which this couple sat, I wondered how long must they have been together? What is it that keeps them so happy?
The river front restaurants revealed that it is always packed with people. Lovers, students, girl gangs, lone artists, group of men, name any kind of human, all were present there. I passed by these restaurants immersed in deep thoughts when suddenly my attention was diverted by jovial shouts of a group of men seated in one of these restaurants. A closer look revealed that they were seated in an open air bar cum restaurant, each with a full frothy glass of beer. I did not understand the language but what it seemed to me was that this group of six men were playing a game.They were divided into two parties. The customers of the nearby tables including the waiter attending to them cheered while they played.The faces of each of these men had a child-like happiness! You cannot help but smile looking at them as you pass by. Their merry making so contagious. ‘What’s so special about them?’ you may ask. Their age. All above 60 years – so bustling with good health,so engaged in life and celebrating their moment.
Throughout dinner of course, I could think only of the spark of youth instilled in Ljubljana’s senior citizens. Post dinner we went the same way back to our hotel. I looked for the group of men and saw that their evening was complete with a sumptuous dinner, alive conversations and punctuation of laughter. As we passed by the Triple Bridge we saw the old couple still sitting there. Two adolescent kids were engaged in an animated discussion with the old man. A young couple stood by talking to them. Before I could wonder who they were I saw that the face of the young man resembled exactly the carefree old woman’s. Of course, they were a family. As I left them I saw that the old man was teaching the older children to make a paper boat. The old woman indulged the toddler while the young couple engaged in a jovial conversation with her.
Life at this age I realized is like a much needed carefree holiday.
What is so wrong about growing old? What is so wrong about living a full life? The only thing that is wrong about old age as I now realize is our stereotypical attitude towards it.