Proactive Aging: A Road Map to Arrive and Thrive

When I made the decision to retire, I was surprised at the number of people who expressed to me their belief that I would be bored when I didn’t have a job to go to everyday.  My response was the same, 100% of the time:  

“…only boring people get bored.”  

But– maybe also people who don’t plan for what’s ahead. If you are currently contemplating retirement, now is the time to begin building for that future. If you have already retired and feel like you’re floundering, it’s not too late to begin.

In a culture where often the first thing we are asked by a stranger after initial introductions is “what do you do?”  is it any wonder that so many of us are largely defined by our work?    I learned early on to view my work as a means to support my life vs my life supporting my work.  For me that meant that while I worked hard to give my best effort, I also endeavored to  maintain a life outside my job.  It was often challenging to manage that goal.

I have a friend who had a very successful career in a field she loved. She retired after some health issues made it difficult to continue, but has since failed to thrive and is largely housebound.  She is an example of one who was so involved in her successful career that she failed to build a life outside of it.  

If you are approaching retirement, here are 10 suggestions to consider :

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gather with others

  1.  Build scheduled activities into your schedule now so that you have a reason to get up and get out when you’re no longer going to work.    I’ve attended a Monthly Bible Study with a small group of women for the last 20+ years.  In addition I’ve long attended weekly services at my church.  Once I ceased working, I added in classes at the gym three times a week and began walking one morning a week with a group of women friends.  These routine activities keep me active and involved in lives outside my own and give me something to look forward to nearly every day.IMG_4788
  2. Kill two birds with one stone.  Exercise your body while staying in touch with friends.  Instead of meeting for lunch or coffee, meet at a park and go for a walk, giving you time to catch up while keeping your body strong and agile.fullsizeoutput_add4
  3. Don’t restrict friendships to others your own age.  If all your friends are your age or older, eventually if you are fortunate enough to have long life, you will face losing many who are dear to you.  Hence, there is a great benefit to having friends of various ages.  I have found many young women who are desirous of being in relationship with an older woman who shares their values and can be a source of wisdom that comes with age.  Multigenerational activities are enriching and expand our horizons.  Spend time with grandchildren while they’re young so you’ll have strong relationships when they age.
  4. Don’t be afraid of technology/social media. While it’s true that social media can be misused, but it can also be a blessing.  Facebook and Instagram have been a means for me to stay in touch with friends all over the world.  Today I was able to converse in real time with my friend who recently relocated to Luxenbourg.  I group text with a several small groups of friends regularly.  And, my granddaughters introduced me to Marco Polo, an application that allows us to send video messages. I’ve been using it for months and recently some of my 30 something friends have discovered it.  This Senior was ahead of the curve!fullsizeoutput_7848
  5. Exercise hospitality at whatever level works for you.  You may not feel like hosting a dinner party but who can’t manage a pitcher of iced tea and a bunch of grapes?  Invite friends over for a movie night or a potluck holiday gathering.
  6. Find a place to volunteer where you can use your gifts for the benefit of others.  We all need a sense of purpose and meaning to our lives.  I spend one day a week with my grandchildren, freeing my daughter to have some time to herself.  I spend another afternoon volunteering at my church, supporting women’s ministries and events.  Wherever your interests lie, find a place to exercise them on a regular basis.  
  7. Remember that isolation is your enemy.  Don’t end up like my friend who believes retiring was the biggest mistake of her life.  Ideally you start building a life outside of your work while you’re still in the game.  But, if you can’t, make it a priority to do so soon after you leave the workplace. cookie 169
  8. Rediscover your partner and the things you enjoy doing together.  Whether it’s going to the gym together, walking your dogs, hiking, travel or movies, make time for each other and for social activities with other friends. 
  9. Rediscover your spiritual side and the faith you may have abandoned. As we near the end of life on earth we are more incline to realize that our spirits need to nurtured and stretched. For me that means reading my Bible in the morning as I enjoy a hot cup of coffee. Ive found God’s Word life giving and able to fill my spiritual tank, enabling me to live with purpose. It means gathering with like minded believers so that we may spur one another on to good work. And, it means feeling prepared for whatever may come.
  10. . Serve others. It may be a neighbor, a friend or someone in your church. Find ways to give of yourself to bless others regularly. Prepare and deliver a meal to a sick friend or a new Mom and her family. If you don’t cook, deliver take out or a gift card to their favorite restaurant. When you make soups prepare a double recipe and freeze half to share with someone later. Offer to babysit your grands overnight and give your adult children a night out sans children. Offer to pick up things at the market for someone who has difficulty getting out. Help with preparations for events you enjoy. The possibilities are endless and as you bless others you, too, will be blessed.

The beauty of retirement is that we have the freedom to choose where and when to spend our time and effort and with whom. It is NOT the time to burrow in for the winter. We are not groundhogs, people.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you’re either preparing to or are already thriving as you age.

Here’s to Blooming in Winter! With a little preparation it can be the icing on your cake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Falling in Love Again

Growing older often  brings with it,  gifts that can only be  wrapped and delivered with the passage of time.

This post isn’t what you think it is.  And maybe you will think me a little “off” once you hear what it  is.   But, the title of this blog is the one that best describes how I feel about  the events of this past weekend.

Nearly fifty years ago, I met a friend, by way of our mutual friend and then we became friends.  We were both single and for a minute contemplated a romance, but quickly came to our senses.  Not one to let a good friend be lost to a romance that wasn’t meant to be, we  both persevered in our friendship, now for almost half a century.

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My dear old friend and I

He, a quirky guy,  married a beautiful woman with a heart-shaped face and a heart that welcomed me. ‘Bless her.  I married my own  quirky guy (whom I  later  divorced and  re-married.)  In between,  Steve and his wife travelled from Tennessee with their first-born and spent time with me and mine. Later, they came to visit us when we lived in the DC area.  When my girl and I returned to California to reunite with my  guy, the drive across the  country included a detour to  Nashville specifically designed to spend time with them before continuing West.

That was 26 years ago.  It was the last time we were in the same place together. But, now they were headed West for a wedding and my far away friend  announced via an unexpected email, that he and his beloved would be dining with us on August 4.

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They arrived at LAX early early Saturday morning, texting me that  their rental car wouldn’t be available until noon. Yikes!   I jumped out of bed and  dashed out of the house, sans make-up and in  the clothes I’d had on the day before. They are  those kind of friends–no need to impress, only to  show up.  So, show up I did.

He was mildly disappointed that I was driving a Ford and not a European sports car but, agreed to get in with a promise of breakfast to come.  We headed to a small community adjacent to LAX where we shared a meal, took some pictures and then drove  along  the coast so they could soak in the sparkle of the early morning Pacific. We  headed North on Vista Del Mar as  beach goers claimed their turf for the day.

Their rental was ready, so I deposited them just off Century Blvd. and they headed East  to one of the Presidential libraries they’d planned to visit.  As for me,   I returned home to prepare for their return for  dinner around our table. When they arrived just after 6,  they met my husband for the first time and everyone was instantly at ease.  If you’d been a fly on the wall, you’d have assumed we were all long time friends in the habit of gathering together often.   We meandered around our kitchen island drinking cold beverages and the years and distance melted away with the summer  heat.  There was no lack of ease  in the room, no extended silences, no aloofness – only the comfort that comes from knowing and being known and believing down deep that  you are welcomed as you are.

We sat at our table and ate too much food.  We  talked for hours, not about superficial things but about the many things that had transpired in our lives since we’d been together last.  There were the expected “catch up” conversations about our children and their lives today, our families and how they’ve evolved.  We came current as we  took in   braised short ribs and strawberry shortbread dessert. There was a lot of laughter, and then some  sorrow too, which morphed into deeper conversations.  We shared joys and sadness because the best lives are  full of both.    And- because there was no sense of risk involved.  We were safe together.

My husband, still recovering from a recent illness, said goodnight early,  but the three remaining compadres sat up late, sharing more stories , unwilling to let the one night we had together end too soon. They had a full day planned for Sunday and it was unlikely we’d meet again before their departure on a train early Monday morning.  Still, as I stood at the front door  sending  them off to their hotel,  I couldn’t help interjecting (okay, I was kinda pleading)  that “IF” they were up to it after another day at another library on Sunday, we’d be so happy  to meet for another meal at a local  restaurant. (a girl can dream, right?)

I fell asleep with a full heart and a prayer that  it might possible to reunite just one more time.  The next morning we texted and I was thrilled to receive her response, which said in part,

“…Such a precious time last night. I hope we’re up to dinner tonight.  We are planning to unless the day gets too long.  It’s good to be here and to be near you guys.  ‘Don’t want to miss the opportunities God has for us…”

My heart swelled with hope.  I prayed for a burst of energy that would bring them back to us.  By 5:30 there was a text that they were headed our way.

BINGO

So there we were, once again, sharing a meal and our lives for another three hours.  And, then,  at the end of a long day,  we said good bye knowing it would be our last for a  long while.

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“Re-united and it feels so good” The husband and I along with our beloved far-away friends, Prilla and Steve

 

It was more than a little heartbreaking for me.  You see, I was reminded anew how very much I love them.  I realized that though 26 years and 2,022 miles had come between us, the closeness I felt for them had never gone away.   Added bonus:  the husband now had come to know and  love them, too.  Although I knew I loved them, it felt  like “falling in love again.”  I was reminded afresh, how very special they are, how like-minded we are, how we share values,  faith and  perspectives on so many important things.  It was a little glimpse of Heaven.  For reals.

WINNING

“I felt my heart strangely warmed.”   -John Wesley                                                             First love.

 I had forgotten what it felt like.

But-then, I was reminded.

They arrived back  home just yesterday.  We  now have a group text going and  I vow it’s going to keep going.  They are the next-door neighbors we’ve always longed for.  We’ve rediscovered a long-lost love and it has left my heart bursting with joy.

May it burn strong for all my days.  And, Lord, if it’s not asking too much?   May they be our next door neighbors in Heaven, if not on Earth? Please and thank You.

Amen and Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Things I Love About Growing Older

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The world around us celebrates all things young, shiny and new.  I am blessed to comprehend  that there are distinct benefits and blessings associated with growing older–  a blessing many aren’t afforded. Some of us long for days gone by.   I,  for one,  would not  trade today for  the sweetest yesterday.  Each day that has passed has brought me to this day, and I am grateful to have travelled  where the road of life has taken me.    As I contemplate the day ahead, I am especially grateful for these gifts:

  1. I get to do what I want, when I want, with whom I want.  My time is my own to use as I wish.  What joy to sleep late or go to bed  late–to spend hours working at something I love or spending time with  someone I love without worrying about an ever present ticking clock.  That said, don’t waste a moment!
  2. Grandchildren.I’m with  the guy who remarked that, if he knew grands were  this wonderful he’d have had them earlier! If you don’t have your own, borrow some.  Little ones help us re-discover the joy of the new while allowing us to share with them perspective and wisdom that come with aging.  The world needs more of this.  _Y9A8246edited
  3. Senior discounts.Free coffee at McDonalds and so much more. There are loads of lists on-line that will point you to deals reserved for the more mature crowd.   I love a bargain and you should, too! Never pay top dollar if you can avoid it. Using our resources wisely is  still smart.  
  4. Retirement. Don’t even get me started. THE BEST. If you aren’t there yet, prepare well.  Relationships are deeper, marriage is better and faith is stronger.  Years of commitment and  sacrifice will pay off.  Trust me on  this. Press on!  
  5. Hours in my garden. My little section of this rainbow has never been prettier.  Time stops there, whether I’m pulling weeds, watering or planting.  I put on my headset, listen to an audio book or just enjoy the sounds of bees buzzing and birds chirping.  So many hidden treasures.
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  7. Knowing enough is enough. Not needing more, but realizing you have more than you need. Looking forward to weeding out what is unnecessary and being content with what’s left. Abundance.
  8. No hurry, no worry.  Whether on the road, waiting in line or completing a task, I am now willing and  able to say, “you go ahead, I’m in no hurry.”  To fall back in traffic and let others zoom past me in their quest to get somewhere quickly is a gift I gladly embrace. The rat race may go on, but,  I’m no longer in the running.
  9. Meals that take more than 20 minutes to prepare.  This is a sweet luxury to one who worked very long days for many years.  To be able to find a new recipe, leisurely prepare it and present it as a gift to my family is pure joy.
  10. The company of good women.  I’ve always had more friends than I deserve, but to be able to actually spend significant chunks of time in their presence is like a tall glass of cold lemonade in the desert.
  11. The end of coloring my hair. Before I turned 60 and at the urging of my husband, I cut my hair within an inch of my scalp and went completely gray.  I’ve never looked back.  With the help of a gifted beautician and a great cut, I’ve never been happier with my hair. (Thank you Julie@TanglesManhattanBeach!)

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    The shoe just didn’t fit! Yay for Grey!

So, that’s what’s on my mind this morning.

No doubt, this list will expand in the days to come, but, for today, allow me to encourage you to resist reminiscing too much about “the good old days.”  Instead, fully  enjoy this moment in time.  It’s a gift.    Don’t miss this beautiful day because you’re straining  to look back.    Instead, open your eyes wide to the present.  It will be past, tomorrow.

Look up and BLOOM.

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Look up and BLOOM!

“Will You Still Need Me…?”

This week marked a momentous occasion–  my 64th birthday.  Were you humming along?  Those of a certain age immediately recognized this classic Beatles tune which continues on to say,  

 “…will you still feed me, when I’m 64?” 

I am delighted to report that I am not yet in need of someone to feed me.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow. (Let’s just keep singing, okay?).  I am, in fact , thriving; content with my lot in life and grateful that I’m still here on earth to live it.  

My actual birthday began with  hot coffee delivered  by my dear husband, followed by a delicious free birthday breakfast at Good Stuff,  a complimentary beverage at  Starbucks, a massage courtesy of my friend, Paula,  a free dessert from Buca De Beppo and several  beautiful bouquets of spring flowers.  I was showered with good wishes all day long.  By way of the blessing/curse of  social media, texts, voice messages, actual phone conversations, birthday cards and  meals shared with friends and family, I received birthday greetings from over 100 dear friends in more than 10 states.  I am a rich girl.  Obvi.  

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Birthdays are for celebrating! 

I rejoice in every birthday and have never been able to grasp why thoughtful, intelligent people avoid them like the plague.  There is such disdain for birthdays, growing older and letting go of youth that we have become a culture that fails to appreciate that every birthday is a blessing.  They mark another year of life we’ve been given-another year to love and live and serve and grow. They also mark a new beginning, another trip around the sun ahead of us.  So, why, pray tell, do we view that as a curse and not the blessing it is? 

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It’s your birthday.  Make a wish and then make it happen!

I say it’s time to rethink this whole birthday thing.  Instead of wincing at the thought of another year we’d rather not admit to, why not celebrate the fact that we’re still here–the fact that we’ve been  given the opportunity to do better than we did before.  We’ve been given another year to right wrongs,  reconcile division, serve our communities, love our family and friends  and share the wisdom we’ve gained.  We’ve been given an opportunity to let go of the things that don’t matter so much and focus on the ones that do.  It is, in effect ,  a  personal New Year’s celebration.  So, let’s stop bemoaning the fact that  we have more lines and fewer smooth surfaces on the gloriously made bodies we travel around in.  Let’s  own who we are and how old we are and claim the blessings that come with aging.  Yes, there are many.  If you are hard pressed to come up with them,  you might need to look a little harder.  ‘Just sayin’.   

For many years I worked in the Assisted Living field.  While there I came up with a theory that something happens to our vision when we reach the 4th quarter of our lives.  We look in the mirror but we no longer see the actual reflection.  Instead, we see the person we are inside.  Hence, 90% of the people who visit  an Assisted Living community leave with the same response to their families:  “All those people are OLD.”  But inside each of those “OLD” souls is a person with hopes and dreams still yearned for.  When we dismiss ourselves or someone else because we or they are aging, we fail to acknowledge that there is still a heart beating, willing and quite able to contribute to the world around them.

I am quite blessed to be a part of a faith community that doesn’t merely tolerate the over 50 crowd, but, embraces it and  endeavors to utilize the gifts and abilities of those who have over half a century of experience here on earth.   Intergenerational gatherings and  activities are the rule,  not the exception.  Young women actively seek out the wisdom and counsel of  more mature women who have lived lives, had careers, raised children, made mistakes, maintained relationships, endured hardship  and learned their way around the block.   I walk with a group of  both young and old women  every week.  Our conversation is always lively, often deep and sprinkled with laughter, counsel and prayer. The older bring life experience and the younger help us olders keep up with current trends, jargon and perspective. It’s a great mix. 

When we stop trying to hide our age and instead celebrate it, we are choosing to  live more authentic and joyous lives. That doesn’t mean we won’t occasionally look in the mirror and bemoan the wrinkles around our eyes or  the awful truth that our chins are multiplying while our necks are  disappearing, but, we cannot allow the passage of time to define us.  We still have work to do and have been given the time to complete it.  Let’s roll up our sleeves and like the woman in Proverbs 31, smile at the future.  There’s still a lot of living to do.  

As for me, I’m not being fed myself,  but feeding someone else this afternoon.  I’ll be delivering homemade, hot bruschetta soup to a young family going through a hard time.  Because I can.  It’s a great way to begin my 65th trip around the sun! 

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