Has Retirement Retired Your Purpose?

Barbara Morris

At what age is it appropriate to stop doing what you are doing and instead sit down and not do much of anything for the rest of your life? If there IS an age, who decides what age that should be? Do you decide? Or the government? Or does God make that decision?

The answer is that with the passage of the Social Security Act in the 1930’s, age 65 was chosen as retirement age because most people did not live much beyond age 68.  It was a well-intended socialist play: the government will take care of you because you can’t be relied on to take care of or provide for yourself. Or, as Obama has said, we are too small-minded to make our own decisions.

So here we are today with many healthy people living to and beyond age one hundred. And many of those healthy individuals are bored to death, not knowing what to do with themselves. The government NCHS Data Brief No. 233, January 2016 “Mortality Among Centenarians in the United States, 2000-2014” claimed the numbers of Americans aged 100 and over increased 43.6%, from 50,281 in 2000 to 72,197 in 2014. That is huge! And the numbers are growing each year, meaning it’s possible to have a super second life for a long time.

Would it help to keep people working longer by increasing the retirement age by even one year? Shrieks and howls of protest would drown out logic and reason: “We want our retirement. We want to move to Florida and get comfy in retirement community where we can frolic and be with people just like us. We may be chronologically old, but we are young at heart. There’s a lot of fire left in us!  We want to drink, have sex with one and all, and play golf until the cows come home. We want to have fun! We EARNED IT!”

Eventually, the original animated 65-year-old- “kids”  (now in their dotage) begin to decline: Diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems,  etc., take a toll on mind and body.

Yes, retirees got chronologically “old,” but chronological aging in itself does not result in or cause sickness or decline. We do it to ourselves. It’s the traditional leisure-oriented “eat, drink and be merry”  retirement lifestyle that eventually knocks retirees out of the game.

But look, all of that is terrible information. Who needs it?  We have enough terrible news right now. How can we make the bad news better? It’s not complicated. Start to change how you live and think.  It’s YOUR life, and you have the right (at least for now) to do what you want to do with your time left.

And, by the way, speaking of time left, don’t play God. Don’t anticipate how much longer you have to live because you don’t know. Since we live longer, the smart thing is to live each day in anticipation of life, not death. Be future-oriented.   Stop thinking about what you can or cannot do, or should not do because of awareness of your age.

You may be bored, feeling unneeded, ignored, or disappointed in your retired lifestyle, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. If you are reasonably healthy and mentally competent, there is so much you can do to help yourself and, in the bargain, help others. Everyone needs a purpose to help them feel fulfilled. Having a purpose helps make life better for yourself and OTHERS. It’s not a pastime like knitting or playing golf — having a purpose actually produces tangible life change.

If you don’t have a defined purpose now, that’s okay. You can develop or resurrect one that will light up your life and be a lifesaver for others. There are so many places and ways to put a defined purpose into action. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Perhaps one of the most fruitful places to create positive change is in senior communities, where older people often have only fellow residents for a social life. Can you teach them something you know or can do that is useful or fun? Can you help them develop or resurrect THEIR forgotten purpose? That may not seem easy, but it is easy, and it’s exciting, not just for you, but for those you help. You don’t have to do it alone. Ask others to help you who have so much to give and WANT to give.

Being in retirement can be a bane or a blessing. What you make of it is your call, and this is for sure: the more you give of your time and talents to others, the more you will grow and have increased satisfaction with where you are in life. It can be a win-win situation for everyone.

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