"No one becomes old until regrets take the place of dreams."
Imagine spending your professional life as an attorney. You have gained considerable wisdom and insight in over 40 years of practice. Now imagine you have just “retire” from your former firm and are attending an annual meeting of the Chamber of Commerce when you are approached and asked, “Didn’t you used to be an attorney?” This scene is no doubt repeated daily throughout America. People work hard to reach retirement; and gained considerable wisdom and expertise that could benefit other businesses and organizations; only to be stripped of significance banished to the ranks of the “used-to-be.”
Over the past five decades, “aging” has developed a generally negative image thanks to media stereotyping, situation comedies and late night talk shows. Negative portrayals have left Americans with the general perception that later life is primarily a time of loss and decline. While gaining some positive ground in the last few years, the portrayal of forgetful, doddering, confused “seniors” is all too common. The goal of this blog is continue correcting those misconceptions and battle ageism.
The act of “retiring” can have a profound impact on one’s significance, which may influence their future direction and life satisfaction. When one’s former position and recognition are lost, there may no longer be the opportunity for challenge and satisfaction. For many, physical concerns regarding appearance, peak performance and memory begin to color their attitudes toward themselves and their personal value. They mindlessly accept the stereotypes and perceptions of aging, as a time of decline; and begin a downhill slide. Their beliefs about aging and “retirement” all too often become self-fulfilling prophecies.
On the other hand, later life can be a positive and joyful experience…an adventure in personal growth and fulfillment for those who mindfully commit to aging successfully. The pursuit of successful aging requires one to develop a broader set of satisfying activities, relationships, and responsibilities that extend well beyond the workplace. After all, retirement is not a life stage. It is simply an act that takes a couple of minutes.
Unfortunately, most of us do not reconsider what we mindlessly accepted as fact earlier in life as we poked fun at “old fogies” or referred to memory lapses as “senior moments.” Many people still view retirement as either a time to play and be entertained or a time to begin the “downhill slide.” Even our institutions and support agencies often unwittingly but flagrantly encourage dependency. Sadly, the more help people are given; the more they will come to need.
Now the Good News! Positive Aging is a growing movement to redefine “aging” for what it is – the progression of growth from a simple child to a complex adult; and to redefine “retirement” as a time of growth, involvement, connectedness and contribution. .
By mindfully pursuing positive aging, later life may again come to be perceived as the crown jewel of the human experience. Celebrating positive aging will give rise to a culture that appreciates the uniqueness and worth of each individual.