Sometimes you set out to write a column about something and find you've written about something else instead.

Here is the column I meant to write last week, which is about the challenges men face and the mistakes we make in our middle and later years.

It helps explain why Julie Anne Genter's recent observations about the make-up of company boards made good sense.

"Middle and later years" are now very fluid terms, the period they cover changing constantly. With each modern medical breakthrough or Pharmac funding decision comes another way to extend by a few more years a life that, when I was born, had a much shorter expectancy.


I'm at an age where, half a century ago, people thought it was reasonable to start dying.

Now, we have all these extra decades, which need to be acknowledged and planned for.

But many men refuse to act on this knowledge. For them it's too late.

Some just give up. They look at a calendar, see it says "65" and, having been led their whole lives to associate that number with retirement, decide it's all over and they no longer need to do anything at all. And from that point they start to stagnate.

It's not hard to be sympathetic with this outlook. By the time a man gets to his 60s he's beginning to realise a few things that may colour his thinking negatively: the world is no longer his oyster; it's going to be a lot harder to start over; all the second chances have been used up; the sweet bird of youth has flown.

Older men, whether they realise it or not, have a lot to offer, much of it endearing.

They're as helpless as kittens in the face of grandchildren. This is when the dad joke usually reaches its fullest flowering. And they do know a thing or two about life.

On the other hand, when you have spent your life being told you are right, it's difficult to deal with disagreement. The response to a changing world is often: "Yes, but there was nothing wrong with the way we used to do , that worked just fine."

Many who followed the plausible and beguiling "carpe diem" are now paying the cost of living for the day in the long-term effects of over indulgence in the wrong foods and, particularly, alcohol and other drugs, which will have their way with anyone in the end.

It's not hard to think of examples of men living lives of loneliness because they squandered the emotional capital they should have invested in their primary relationships.

Now they are surprised and embittered when the children they have ignored show little interest in finally having a relationship with them.

Older men often don't take advantage of the perspective their years give them. Instead of noticing the inevitably of generational cycles they drone on about how today's kids are screwed because of smartphones.

They have friendships, but they are often superficial and about killing time rather than creating a full emotional life. Women's friendships at any age tend to be deeper, more honest, intimate and sustaining.

For all these reasons, many men in this age group are living miserable, unfulfilling lives. It's no wonder they stop trying, or take it out on those around them.

In this respect, we can never hear too often from Clint Eastwood. The best solution is to follow his philosophy. When asked why, in his 80s, he was still carrying out the arduous work of making movies, Eastwood quoted a friend's advice: "Never let the old man in."