Contemplating the joys of retirement pleasures

TRAVELS WITH EPICURUS: A Journey to a Greek Island in Search of a Fulfilled Life<br><b>Daniel Klein</b><br><i>Text PublishingIn search of an authentic old age, American philosopher and writer Daniel Klein takes a library of his favourite philosophers to the Greek island of Hydra, where he plans to observe other septuagenarians and octogenarians.

The adventure is sparked by a visit to his dentist who tells him his lower teeth need to be removed and replaced with implants, or a denture plate, which would leave him with the clunky smile of an old man. He signs up for the implants, which will require a year's worth of visits to the dentist and a lot of pain and money.

But when he gets home he has second thoughts. Is it better to spend a precious year trying to extend the prime of his life or to live an authentic old age, goofy grin and all. After all, he is in his 70s. He realises he was getting swept up in the trend of trying to extend the prime of life well into years that used to be called ''old age''. If he did that he would miss out on a significant and valuable stage of life, going straight from a protracted prime into old old age when infirmity and senility set in.

Why Epicurus? He was an ancient Greek philosopher from whom the word epicurean comes. But rather than taking particular pleasure in fine food and drink as today's epicures do, Epicurus believed a tranquil old age was the pinnacle of life.

The way to attain the happy, tranquil life, characterised by peace, freedom from fear and the absence of pain, was to be found by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends, to be happy with what you have, and enjoy simple pleasures rather than wanting what you do not have. Scale down and enjoy the leisurely pleasures of old age, Klein explains.

He contemplates these and other ideas, muses on the tranquillity of life on Hydra without motorised transport, enjoys the simple pleasures of a walk to the tavern, watching the sun set from the terrace and talking to friends as the other old people do on the island.

It is a charming read, sincere and yet humorous, contemplating the joys of retirement before old old age and disability set in, if only we can let go of the contemporary idea of striving to be forever young.

Charmian Smith is a Dunedin writer.