Our ‘words of wisdom’ interview celebrates our older people and the contribution they make. It gets their take on life, lessons learned and advice they would give to their younger self and younger people today. This month we talk to 81 year old James Blaney...James has been married for 60 years, he has three children, 8 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren.

Hi James, tell us what did/do you work at?

I started work when I was 15 in a pawn shop but then joined the Merchant Navy when I was 16. I was there until I was 26, then I worked in Michelin Tyre factory for 20 years until it closed down and I then went to work in Joe Cavanagh’s shop in Smithfield for 16 years. I have also done a lot of voluntary work for the credit union and was involved in local parish activities.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I would tell myself to get my priorities right and make sure to do things that interest you.

What advice would you give to younger people today?

Young people should be out and about more, enjoying the fresh air. They should listen more and not be on their mobile phones so much.

What age has been the best age of your life? Why?

The best age of my life was between 16 – 26 when I was in the Merchant Navy travelling the world, seeing countries and places I would never have had the opportunity to visit otherwise. Then after a long trip being able to come home to my family.

What in your opinion was the best decade? Why?

The best decade for me was the ‘60s, as I was beginning to earn decent money and was able to have a better standard of living.

What is your earliest memory?

This is not my earliest memory but it is one that has stuck with me for a long time - I was 16 and had just finished the Merchant Navy Training School. I was sent to Southampton to board my first ship which was going to Buenos Aires and I remember being on the docks and looking up at the ship and being in awe at the size of it and also thinking that I was embarking on a fantastic journey full of adventure and excitement.

Proudest achievement?

My proudest achievement has to be my three children and being alive to see them growing up and becoming adults. Also, having a comfortable home that is warm and welcoming.

What would you say are the most difficult and most rewarding things about growing older?

The most difficult thing about growing old I think is not being able to get out and about, although that is no problem for me, but I know for some older people that is a real problem.

The most rewarding thing about getting old for me is being able to look back on my life and seeing what I have accomplished. Also, having my family around me, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren coming in and being able to tell them my stories about the things I seen and the countries I visited when I was in the Merchant Navy.

What is the biggest misconception about getting older?

I think there is a misconception out there that older people can’t do anything, that they are not capable of doing things, have no interests. This is not true, I walk every day, I go to keep fit and I swim twice a week.