By Theresa Nygren
My grandma was right on so many scores. Throughout her 80s and 90s, she always alluded to feeling so much younger than her age. I never fully understood her reality nor did I comprehend her reflection on how time kept speeding up the older she got. I now know both of these realities. Although I am only in my early 60s, I too, feel much younger than my age as I attempt to keep up with the quick shifting of one season into the next. I’m sure that I am not alone in navigating this new terrain of “our older years!” For many, the major transition from work to retirement is the primary focus. So much of our previous identity has been placed on our aspirations of who we will become in the world of work. With looming retirement, a different angle of the same question of who will I become draws our attention. The natural progression of working our way up the corporate ladder isn’t so clearly mapped out in retirement. Although so many long for the freedom of “being their own boss,” having a wide open field of possibility can be daunting for many of us. Questions around “What do I want? How do I want to live my days? What is important to me?” all beg for attention. These questions and more swirl around us as we begin to step forward into this next major transition in our lives.
Luckily for this current generation of baby boomers, we have a wide playing field to choose from. There is a fascinating history of retirement. The bottom line is that after the industrial revolution, older workers were not able to keep up on the assembly lines. Younger workers were waiting to step in and take over these positions. In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed the Social Security Act whereby workers would pay for their own old-age insurance. Older folks left their jobs but did so begrudgingly. In 1951 emphasis was placed on retirement as a time of leisure and play. An explosion of golf courses sprang up along with retirement communities in Florida. Although leisure and play is an important component of retirement, it is certainly no longer the primary focus for most.
Given the average life expectancy for men of 76 years and for women of 81 years, there is a considerable hunk of time in retirement to find meaningful ways to participate in life. So back to the questions!
The last line of Mary Oliver’s poem, The Summer Day says, “ Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” If retirement occurs in our early 60s, we may have another third of life to live. It behooves us to think big and consider all the ways to still stay active, connected, and engaged in life. Some retirees choose to volunteer, others explore educational offerings, while others find a balance between taking care of the grandkids and taking care of themselves. As I think about my contemporaries, many of them have found a blend of self pursuits of vacations to far away places and significant hunks of time in caring for their grandchildren. The old mold of retirement has been cracked wide open. A new frontier of how to find meaning, stay connected to the world and remain active and vibrant is upon us. I marvel at many of the regular gym attendees who are well into their late seventies. Who says that the only option is to retire to an “old age community” where bingo and bridge are the featured activities.
Coming together to address these questions can be a wonderful way to look at the wider perspective. We all can fall into the habit of seeing life through our own unique lens. A new six week Mindfully Blooming into Retirement group launches this fall. Please consider joining us as we unravel all the questions and collectively help one another move forward to create vibrant and meaningful ways to enjoy this next phase of our lives. Additionally participants will be learning new skills to help navigate this time of change. A variety of mindfulness practices will be woven into the group format. Upon completion, participants will have a variety of meditation practice to draw from as they embrace what lies ahead.