Old Does Not Mean Slow

Taken from my US News & World Blog

As we age, we tend to slow down. The older we get, the more susceptible we are to physical deterioration and loss of mental acuity. It is the way of the world, and we need to accept that reality. But is this an accurate truism across the board?

Last weekend I joined my parents in celebrating their 80th birthdays with a gathering of family and approximately thirty friends acquired over the past fifty years. The average age in the room, excluding immediate family, was in the 80 plus range. As I mingled with attendees I recognized from when I was a kid, it quickly became apparent these people were not interested in slowing down. They were still very sharp and engaged with living. Wrinkles may have taken over their outward appearance, but their minds were wrinkle-free.

During the evening I crossed paths with Lonnie, who is over 80, and had just returned from a week of skiing at North Star. Alfred, 87, regaled us with minute details of the 39 cruises he has taken since retiring at 62. And George, who is also over 80, has discovered a second career after leaving medicine in the wine industry. Once a year he journeys to France where he tastes more than 300 different wines over a four-day period to select future purchases for his wine store.

How do they beat aging? I believe the secret to the continued sharpness of my parents and their friends is staying busy and engaged with living. None of these octogenarians defines retirement in terms of slowing down, relaxing, or sitting out life. They continue to be involved in a lifelong pursuit of worthy goals.

Their enduring friendships have been based on shared passions for playing bridge, tennis, and golf. They also attend local theater and concerts, travel, and host dinner parties with heated discussions about everything from politics to international events. They enjoy living each day and are always there for each other to share a happy moment or support a not-so-happy time. In their inner circle, happiness seems not so much about the individual but more about the group. For this group of seniors, retirement is not the end of life, but the beginning of the second act.

Dave Bernard is the author of Are You Just Existing and Calling it a Life?, which offers guidelines to discover your personal passion and live a life of purpose. Not yet retired, Dave has begun his due diligence to plan for a fulfilling retirement. With a focus on the non-financial aspects of retiring, he shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement–Only the Beginning.

Why an active retirement is not just keeping busy

We all hope to one day enjoy an exciting retirement life filled with new experiences doing what we want to because we FINALLY can! If we are wise, we have planned for retirement ahead of time beyond just the financial and we have a good idea of what we want to be doing with our new found free time. In an earlier blog I outlined what I really need in retirement but your mileage may vary.

My outlook on keeping busy in retired life is evolving as I continue my retirement planning efforts. Comments to last weeks blog 4 fears about retirement helped me realize that avoiding boredom is not about the quantity of activities but rather the quality of what you do.

This week I attempt to dig a bit deeper to identify some of the components that can make up a quality experience. See what you think in an active retirement is not just keeping busy.



Active Retirement – Healthy Aging Requires It

You’ve got to get to the stage in life where going for it is more important than winning or losing. ~ Arthur Ashe


In my last blog, I shared some examples of retirees living incredibly active senior lives, their calendars packed with daily events and various adventures scheduled out into distant months. We all know how important it is to keep active mentally and physically, not only to fight against the effects of aging but also to give ourselves the kind of satisfying and fulfilling retirement that we all want.  Our retirement days should not be just about getting by – there are exciting things to do and amazing places to be visited with stories to be told and we want to be telling those stories, not merely listening to someone else tales.

Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does. ~ William James

It is not always easy for senior citizens to get out there and go for it like we did when we were younger, which is okay and I believe even desirable. We are different people at 70 than we were at 17 – if not, the world would be in serious straights. Imagine for one moment a world of 17-year-old running things and we quickly realize that there is a method to the madness of growing old. Still it would be nice to steal a little of that energy that is so present in teenagers and stick it in our back pocket for a little boost. Short of that, what traits do we need to remain active seniors, grabbing life instead of watching it pass by?

Action is the antidote to despair. ~ Joan Baez

Passion – passion knows no age. Older people are just as passionate – if not more – than their younger counterparts. As long as the heart beats, passion is present. When are you more alive than when you vigorously  defend your position or dive head first into something that you really love to do? Our passion can be as unique as our imaginations allow, discovered down the most unlikely alleys we may wander. Don’t fight it, FEED it.

Plans – having activities scheduled helps to keep us in the game. An empty calendar can cause feelings of loneliness and even worthlessness. “No one wants to have anything to do with me.” A busy calendar does not allow time for dark thoughts since you have places to go and people to see. Short term plans such as regular get togethers with friends for bridge, tennis, golf, or a walk keep you active and engaged. And longer term plans – like a trip to France or a week on the coast – keep you anticipating rather than dreading the future.

Persistence – I may not feel like getting out of bed today or I may not be into going on my scheduled walk with Bobby Joe or I may think that I prefer to sit in front of the tube instead of getting outside for some fresh air. But I am not going to give in. Life is meant to be lived not observed. I will persist and I will persevere. And I will live. If you give in, you lose.

Perspective – it is important to know yourself and understand your personal point of view. All of the  life you have lived to this point has created your unique perspective on life and living. However rarely is your point of view the same identical point of view shared by others. Knowing this, you may better understand why a friend behaves the way she does when you may have anticipated her behaving differently. Remember to see things as they really are not just as you perceive them to be. The best perspective from which to accurately view the world is no perspective at all.

Presence – looking too far into the future or dwelling on the past prevents you from living and experiencing this moment. If your mind is distracted by some distant situation, you are unaware of what is going on right now under your nose. It will be very challenging to get the most out of your active life with this separation of mind and body. So remember to be aware of your presence here and now.

Perfection – none of us are perfect so don’t struggle or worry or get down on yourself when you make a mistake. The important thing is that we are doing something. If we do nothing, the risk of making a mistake is zero. But our likelihood of experiencing anything worthwhile is also zero. Active seniors take a chance and accept imperfection gladly in exchange for the opportunity to feel, experience, enjoy and live.

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. ~ Theodore Roosevelt

The first step to living an active senior life is to take the first step.

Don’t forget to pick up a free copy of my Navigating the Retirement Jungle, available upon request by mailing to lovebeingretired@hotmail.com.