Aging with Purpose

Did you ever wonder why sometimes old people are described, or even labeled as "geezers"? Not very complimentary indeed. What does is mean, really? Well, like most words, phrases, and communication, it often begins with the speaker. Some may say "he's an old geezer" without any further thought to it. Imagine someone growing up in a family or community in which it's just another way to describe a quiet old man. On the other hand, it could be quite derogatory. The meaning and implication could be of being really, really, really old. Again, depends on your perspective.

Think back to your late teens and very early 20's. Did you ever celebrate with a friend or colleague turning 25 years old, and wish them a "Happy Quarter of a Century Birthday"? Seems like nothing now, but what did it imply at the time? 25 years old was really old. Then. And there are those that may have implied, "tightwad", "socially outcast", or other very judgemental ideas when they called someone a geezer.  Let take a different approach. How about we define a geezer as one who has paid their dues, who has wisdom to share, and who has a great deal of life and purpose left within them!

man sleeping on park bench

Getting older, aging, is a season of life. You can look forward to it with gusto. Don’t just retire and die. Start planning now if you're not already retired. Know what is really important to you. Family. Friends.  Write down your life goals. It's not over yet. For example, "We've always wanted to travel". Where to? What's your destination, or list of destinations? And what else have you been wanting to do for years? Let's get started!

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are fictional characters. As you consider the idea of purpose, and aging with purpose, think back for a moment to your experience and knowledge of the famous fictional detective. No, it's not real life. But truth, knowledge, and wisdom can come from many sources. Consider this utterance from The Adventures of the Blue Carbuncle, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: “My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people do not know.” It's quite a statement. Written for literary impact and character development. And it is quite bold. By this statement, Sherlock Holmes announces to the audience, and the world,  his purpose.

What about aging with purpose in the real world. Most of us wear many hats. Throughout our lives we have found purpose in our families as sons and daughters. Many of us have continued with more purpose as Fathers and Mothers, Grandfathers, and Grandmothers. And as Uncles, Aunts, and Godparents. Within the working world, all those years building a career, going to a job everyday, and being productive while providing for the needs of life added purpose. For some, their faith has been an integral foundation of purpose throughout their lives. It has been expressed in their activities and involvement with others. And life in the community has brought purpose to many, often in line with individual focus and passions. Supporting arts, music, drama, and others expression of talents has been a source of personal motivation.

Family and Purpose

Behind every geezer is a family. A Mother and a Father.

Let's go back to childhood. Yes, those early years. We share similar experiences such has starting school, the elementary years, and growing through adolescence. And while many may share similar experiences in family life, the variety is nearly infinite. Your experience is unique to you. Did you grow up in a loving, supportive family group, Mother and Father together for life. Yes, sounds like the Leave It to Beaver life. Or did you grow up in a more or less dysfunctional home? We're your parents separated sometime before your 18th or 20 birthday? Did you experience a blended family through your your younger years? Or did you lose a parent completely through separation or death? It's not always easy to look back at how you got to where you are today. But it can be helpful as you look to the years ahead.

Growing older with purpose can be enhanced by your version of family. This is about you at the moment, no one else. You know your unique family situation. If you have a loving spouse with common interests and a share vision for the future, you are blessed. Beware not to take that for granted, to nurture it, and to spend time on it. You are never too old to have a regular "date night". Schedule it and make a point to honor it. And if your situation is living with a spouse or living alone, who do you look to as family? Do you have grown children, and grandchildren? How is your relationship with them? Are they local, near you? Are they far away? How often do you see them? How much are you in contact with them? Do you go to your grandkids baseball and soccer games? And their band concerts? Have you ever taken your grandchildren away for a weekend, just you and one of them at a time? What a wonderful way to connect with them beyond the regular distractions of our highly technological world. And if distance separates you from family, your options for regular communication and connection are broad from that technology. No excuses today and lots of options:  Telephone, email, texting funny and encouraging pictures, Facebook Face Time, GrandPad video conferencing designed for seniors, and road trips are all ideas to get you started.

four generations of family

There is a old saying, "you can't chose your family but you can choose your friends". You may be more alone from your natural family than connected. It's never too late to make amends if desired. Consider that carefully, only you know your real family situation. And how many times in your life, have you found yourself spending much more time with your friends than your family? Friendships are built on trust and mutual interests, along with a lot of time spent together. There is no magic formula to develop friends, yet there are common patterns. Friends can talk about specific , personal, intimate topics completely out of bounds in regular conversations. Friends believe in each other and support each other, through thick and thin. In fact, that's what makes friends so special, they accept  you for who you are in spite of your human failings.  Yes, we're all humans here and we all mistakes and have missteps at times. It is no mean feat to develop deep, abiding friendships based on trust. It takes time, shared experiences, and a willingness to forgive and move on from failures.

Career and purpose

Let's talk about your career. You know, before becoming a geezer.

What did you do for a living? Actually, what did you do for a living the first time? When you were younger? Then what did you do for a career next, and next, and next? It sounds like an easy question, what did you do? But for many, in fact most of us, life often involved career changes, job changes, even moves changing locations, uprooting the family and moving around.

And in your job, career,  and that place many of us went to day after day after day after day,  did you find purpose? One of the great tragedies is to know someone who spent 40 years of their life going to a job they hated. For them, each day began with dread. And equally, if not more so, they spent those 40 years looking forward to the day they could retire. Even more tragic, is when they find themselves bored and without purpose, and within the first two years after working, they die.

surgical nurse with mask

If you were fortunate, and found the career or job you really loved, you are blessed. And, you must have both passion and skills related to that activity. How many times have you seen someone retire, then go back to work part time, or in a consultative role, in their old industry? For these people, there was purpose throughout their life, in their career, and being able to continue that at a slower pace, and by choice, can be fulfilling in later life.

For those who found them in a career that was less satisfying, but "paid the bills", it is never too late. In both cases, it can be very beneficial to stop and look at your passions. What do you love to do? What makes you feel good about yourself? Each of these involves both emotional health and mindfulness. What is retirement after all? One definition would suggest "doing exactly what I want to do everyday".

Consider Mr. Gates of Microsoft. Bill Gates was passionate about his work. Years later, with much success behind him, do you think he went to work everyday just to make the ends meet? Or perhaps he was passionate about what he was doing, and really enjoyed going to work everyday. Each of us has a path to follow and that includes the road that lies ahead. Life is about choices. We are who we are from both nature and nurture and all those experiences. You have a choice to find the balance between those experiences you want to continue and develop, and your want and need to expand. To be adventuresome, to boldly go where you've never gone before.

Faith and purpose

Faith and purpose. How are they related for senior adults?

Faith. What does that mean to you? Faith and purpose? Does your faith bring you purpose? How do you define faith? What words come immediately to mind when you hear the word faith? How about spiritual? What does it mean when you hear or say the word spiritual? "I'm a spiritual being." "He and she are spiritual beings". One could say the most universal question from every man woman and child on the planet Earth is: why am I here? Why? All alone it hints at purpose.

Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jew, Catholic, Protestant, Mormon. As people there is much evidence we seek an understanding of our spirituality. Why was I born? What should I do with my life? Or, what have I done with my life, and what will I do with the rest of it. "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." ~Hebrews 11:1.  Faith is believing in someone or something bigger than yourself. Faith is timeless. To a man or woman of faith our lifetime on this planet is a mere speck in the tapestry of eternity. All this leads back to the opening question "what does faith mean to you?"

faith handles clasped praying

If your faith is secure, you may look forward to one day meeting your maker face to face. It is a time of joy and of expectation. If a walk of faith is a journey for you there is time to begin and complete that journey. If this has no relevance to you or your life, you may not have read in this far. You may have found this topic of interest to others, but not to you. You may have skipped to the next topic.  On the other hand if anything in you is uncomfortable, troubled, or confused at this point, you may want to listen to that inner voice. Aging with purpose, includes every part of your being. Your heart, your mind, your body, and your spirit. This may be a time to listen and seek understanding.

Community and purpose

Geezers unite - in retirement communities!

The word community stirs up images of many things for many people. Consider one Webster definition:

"Community:  a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society."

  In short it's being together with other like-minded people for a common purpose. Hey there's that word purpose again.

Community may be how you think of your friends. Community may be your neighbors in your neighborhood. If you are in a small town you may think of the whole town as your community. If you are involved with sports groups, you may think of others you know and see at your kids and grandkids soccer games. If you are on the Arts Council, that may be the community for you. You might find community with fellow sportsmen, fishermen. or hunters. You may find community with like-minded fellow quilters. Yes as evidenced by those painted quilt signs on houses barns and sign posts. Quilters sometimes have tight knit relationships!  (Yes, pun intended).

Consider the position that we all have a need to belong, the need for a sense of belonging. This is very powerful when a group of people come together to help each other, or others beyond themselves. Such as those that fill sandbags when levees threaten to break, and damage others homes and property. This sense of belonging can be negative as well. How many times do you read headline news of something gone awry, when a group of people become a mob of people, and are destructive to others. Why? It's a common question. How did this happen? Why did they do that? Belonging is sometimes more important than the cause.

community volunteering helping others

So how can we direct "community" to be a positive influence around us? To influence others for the good? To make a difference in the lives of others? And isn't that a powerful driving force in our lives? To make a difference.

Embrace your purpose. Embrace your patience. Be part of something bigger than you. Embrace your faith. Find your community if you are still searching. Engage with your community continually and effectively if you are already fortunate enough to have found it. And in both cases don't stop there. Life is an adventure. Look around. Seek out. Find your place. Life is too abundant to waste it watching reruns of Hogan's Heroes, Gilligan's Island, and the Twilight Zone, no matter how much you love them. And yes it's okay to watch them, just look outside your door as well. Get involved and be involved with your community, as you define it. Rumor has it, that social interaction is a key preventative measure to ward off Alzheimer's. (We'll leave the particular judgment of that up to you and the experts.)


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