Writer & Author| Podcaster & Blogger | Proofreader & Editor |Mentor | Social worker & Dementia friend | Filmmaker & Actor |Motivational speaker
Would you believe that all these words describe a single person? Hira Mehta is the person we are talking about. A woman who dons multiple hats. This 65-year-old upbeat author talked to us about her passions and how India is overcoming ageism (discrimination on the basis of age) slowly but surely.
About Hira Mehta
Hira Mehta, or Hiraji as she is fondly called by all, is a woman with many talents. She has diplomas in administrative science, event management and voicing. She had a long corporate career span of 38 years in communications with ICICI Bank. Now, post-retirement, she has taken up various projects that are close to her heart like social service, volunteering at various events, and even hosting. Apart from these, she is a story writer, podcaster & blogger, mentors youth on communication & writing skills, a motivational speaker on living life as a senior, and loves recycling craft (she can turn any old object into a beautiful item!). She also makes and acts in short films!
Hiraji’s first published book was “Twisted Tales and More” and she has recently authored her second book named “Young and Sixty”. This book helps decode the journey of a senior citizen like her, in India, through her own eyes.
Excerpts from the Interview
What is Young and Sixty About?
“You will not believe that there are so many out there who go about life as if they are already in their 60s and life has stood still. That prompted me to write a book on senior living that I called “Young and Sixty”,” Hira Mehta says.
Hraji’s words are absolutely true. Though seniors are equipping themselves to face the new age of technology, many of them believe that life comes to a standstill once you retire. Social pressure and fear of failure are also factors that deter older adults from following their passions post-retirement.
“The book is a conversational journey I have with the readers through my own failings, sharing and life experiences to inspire them to look within again and live life on their own terms. It is a handbook for people of all ages to find that “YOU” and celebrate life “NOW”,” she adds.
Today there are communities, assisted living facilities that help seniors explore their talents, enable them to interact with people of their own age group. There are senior-friendly tours both within India and abroad to let seniors explore their love for traveling and so many more things seniors can enjoy. Older adults are now empowered to make their own choices. And they are reaping great benefits from all of this.
In Hira Mehta’s words, “AGE should mean “Actively Growing Elderly” or perhaps “Aging Gracefully Everyday” but it should not mean “Acting Grumpy Everyday”.”
Is 60 the new 20?
When we asked Hira Mehta whether 60 is the new 20, she laughed, “I am just 16 with 49 years of experience!” She added “Some people believe 58+ or 60+ is the age of retirement and on the other hand, some are increasingly thinking that it should not be so. Even more interesting is that some in their 40s and 50s are choosing to retire from active work with time and health on their side to fulfill other dreams. It is just how you view retirement.”
Hiraji believes RETIRE is a mix of two words RE and TIRE which together mean that “it is time to RE (again) TIRE myself out with another round of life and never tire of exploring the new.” She adds, “I have friends who are running marathons, trekking, climbing mountain peaks and they are all 60 plus. What makes me most unhappy is when people tell me they’re looking forward to retirement to just settle down to doing nothing, because life doesn’t stop at any age. There are many options out there in the world and most of us just have not looked carefully enough.”
Basically, being young and feeling young are two different things. You can be 70 and feel like a child and that’s what matters. Seenagers are the new examples of how older adults are overcoming the challenges of old age and reaching new heights, literally. There are people like Sangeeta Bahl, who conquered the Everest at 53 and Suresh Mane, the 62-year-old who took up cycling post-retirement. Such people lead us to believe that 60 is, indeed, the new 20!
Lifestyle Changes After the 50s
With such an active lifestyle and numerous activities that Hira Mehta does, we thought she must have a highly regimented lifestyle. However, she surprised us with the lifestyle changes she has adopted with regard to health, diet, and fitness.
“Choosing ways to keep me going is the true essence of living right for me. I do not believe in changing food patterns in the name of religion, beliefs, age or diet for anyone, because it is a dangerous game to play with our bodies. Our eating patterns from childhood is what our body is accustomed to, and so changing it only confuses it further. Personally, I just continue eating whatever I have been used to from childhood but in moderation,” Hiraji says firmly. She, however, acknowledges the growing need of calcium with advancing age. “I believe in the power of calcium and my habit of including a calcium tablet in my routine has kept me moving despite some bad and good days with the knees,” she says.
Writing as a Stress Buster
For Hiraji, writing is definitely a stress buster and she strongly believes that everyone can benefit from writing at some level.
She says, “Writing memories and milestones down, is a very good way to make peace with yourself. Instead of keeping things all bottled up inside you, sometimes the best thing you can do is let it all out. Penning your life experiences, be it good or bad, can give you immense peace of getting it out of your system and looking at it in a different. Write letters on occasions to your family members or perhaps e-mail them off. Capture those everyday memories into your diary pages or your social media walls. Pull out old photos and add little descriptive notes to each photo. Everyone loves hearing stories about themselves!”
These practices are a great way for older adults to keep busy post-retirement too!
Hobbies and Passions
It is believed that passing time is one of the most difficult things to do for a retiree, especially when you have spent a life of routine. Seniors keep searching for new things to do. In many cases, however, they fear physical pain or social ridicule and this often stops them from taking up hobbies of their choice. Older adults who cannot keep themselves occupied could slip into apathy and eventual depression.
At 65 years, Hira Mehta is an inspirational woman. She has a variety of hobbies and interests that make sure she is always fruitfully occupied. Apart from writing poems and blogs, she has recently discovered her love for podcasting. “The podcasts share my experiences on various subjects and a few thoughts on tackling it too,” she proudly says. Besides this, she hosts events, writes articles and stories, gives talks on living life as a senior, mentors on communication and writing skills, participates in workshops and forums just to learn new things. She is very active on all social media platforms and continuously shares her experiences on her personal handles. She has an undying passion for the entertainment industry and dance reality shows. She loves meeting new people and making friends.
“Recycling craft is my passion and I love making gifts for friends. I support the cause of Dementia and women empowerment as well,” she says. “Helping others and sharing my expertise, is just my way of feeling good about myself and staying motivated.”
Hiraji is known for her zest for life and exploring new avenues and opportunities. She is also a go-getter, always chasing her dreams to fulfill her bucket list, however crazy they may seem to others. Obviously, she has had some great inspirational figures in her life?
Her biggest inspirations, she says, are her mother, Perin Dudhmal and Amitabh Bachchan. Her mother taught her to laugh openly and always have the curiosity to learn more. “She was my hero. She never found anything other than amusing moments and happiness in her life. A giant wheel ride meant screaming at the top of her voice along with us and clouds meant shapes and art forms in the sky and sunsets were meant to be admired,” Hiraji remembers fondly.
“Mr Amitabh Bachchan, on the other hand, taught me to aspire and never stop exploring. He inspires me to let my work speak for myself, explore and seek out the new, grasp opportunities, learn from the young and never stop living my dreams,” she says.
Ageism in India
Hira Mehta says that though India is getting better at becoming more senior-friendly, it still has a long way to go. Interestingly, she points out that “the seniors themselves who are changing perceptions, so now the world too is beginning to take notice. Fortunately, our immediate society too is beginning to recognize this as a social problem. There are lots to be done still, but we are well on our way.” She also believes that “no matter what your dreams were or perhaps are even today, it should never take second place. Ageism can be great if handled right!”
let’s not forget the fun advantages LIKE…. Demanding seats on the bus and train…. cutting the line pretending not knowing how to do something and getting away with it…. playing matchmaker sitting on a garden bench….. being cranky when you please…. telling off people… saying whatever pops into your mind….and my utmost favourite- stop caring what others think….and the list is never-ending.
Message to Others
“Ask, because what worst can happen, except for a ‘No’. Focus on the positives in your life and remind yourself often, that you are better off than others. Most importantly, do not believe in regrets. I firmly believe that decisions one makes today and then looks back upon later in life, feels like it could have done better, but then I also realize and believe they were the right decisions made in those circumstances at that time.” Hiraji says
Another valuable piece of advice Hira Mehta gives us is to never give up on our dreams. “Do not give up on your bucket list no matter how long it takes. Besides, I believe that God has charted my life and the end of the road leads straight to him; but He never said that I can’t choose my path or take a new road to change my destiny. So look at your face in the mirror every morning and ask what it wants and take that leap of faith,” she signs off.