"Worry about tomorrow, tomorrow"

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By Nadine Reid

It was a bright cold afternoon at Newbridge Silverware and I was greeted with a fabulous smile from Noel Cunningham, him wearing a seasonal red velvet tuxedo cloaked in charisma. The conversation with him was like listening to an inspiring autobiographical audiobook, his smooth Donegal tones full of lessons of overcoming and encouragement for us all.

How do you feel about the term old age pensioner?

I embrace life. I am 65, I am an old age pensioner but I refuse to use that term, I refuse to accept it makes one tad off difference. I  refuse to accept that age should be an impediment or a barrier to anything.

Does ageing affect your career and goals?

Age has no longer, in my opinion, become as important as it was perhaps some years ago, people always bandied the word ageism. I think if anything  its disappearing somewhat. People are living longer aspiring to great things. It’s no longer a young person’s world and I want to embrace that and say to all those who are coming up in those decades behind me, ‘hang on a minute, I am only starting another new chapter.’

Was there a moment when your positive mindset kicked in?

Twenty years ago, I had to find the courage to say those words: My name is Noel and I am an alcoholic. I was merely hoping that in facing my own demons I would take other people with me, on that journey. Then all of a sudden getting older was so unimportant, but rather living became important.

Do you have a favourite decade, in your career?

In my 20s and early 30s I was extremely happy, I threw myself into work I enjoyed it. But then it all kind of fell apart I lost everything. I had to lose everything in order to start again and now I have gained the world. I gained peace and contentment

Words of encouragement

Don’t feel you are totally alone. I was at that lowest ebb, I reached out, there is always somebody there. No matter how bad things are, you have within you the capacity to just put your head a little bit above that soil of depression, sadness, stress and anxiety and once you do that that light gets clearer and you start getting back on track.

Any advice for someone wanting to make life or work changes over the age of 50…

Age is only something we use as an excuse to hold ourselves back. The more we sit and bemoan our state, the more the negativity takes over our lives, it has a strange way of becoming fact. Whereas if you look and see it’s a good day out there, I’ve got a job, what am I going to do when I leave the office? I must do something with my life, find a hobby, go walk, go cycle, join a gym, a dance class, decide to do ballroom dancing, there is a local choir. Recognise there is a big world out there, irrespective of the age.

What future goals do you have for yourself?

I  want to do Dancing with the Stars and I would like to be in the Senate to promote young people, acceptance [and] inclusivity, all of those areas. Because behaviour is learned by young people and we are still a society that needs to re think the way we accept those who are different, those who are from outside of our own borders those who are different religions, there is a lot of work to be done. Inclusivity it has to start in our schools.

Your favourite life quote?

Anyone in your life that is wonderful you should tell them. It’s very important,  don’t be a afraid to say ‘you are wonderful’ because when they are lying in a coffin, or being lowered into a grave, or they are being scattered beside a mountain side top in ash it’s too bloody late then. So tell people, be positive. Remember ‘when we’re planning, God’s laughing’

Catherine Devane