Ageism, Longevity, Old


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The time from retirement to the end of life is getting longer – a lot longer.

There is more time to do nothing if you are into that. There is more time to discover your calling and add new meaning and purpose to the end of your life. The good news is that whenever you are approaching the time when your vocation ends and the pay check stops, there is time to hear your call, discover your purpose, and live out a high impact life.

A key life goal is to be Faithful for a Lifetime.

I just read a quote, “The worst thing in life is to be successful at anything that has no value”. In other words, being successful at nothing is still exactly that, nothing. For so many, the end goal of retirement is in fact to do nothing. Further, developing a high level of skill in a recreational activity is satisfying, but only if you can leverage the lessons to help others.

Figuring out this retirement thing can be confusing. In our society, culture has a distinct way of reacting to the idea of retirement. Because death is frightening to many, other than committed believers, the diseases that kill most of us come to mind first. And a close second is money and the potential pain of not having enough. Heart disease, cancer diagnosis, mental or cognitive developments (dementia and/or Alzheimers), circulatory issues and then respiratory function lead the thought process that is health related. Translating savings and social security into monthly income highlights the money issues. How much will that be and is it going to be enough?

The length of time in front of most of us creates a whole new set of topics and concerns that prior generations did not have to deal with.

They died before the current reality of living longer became an issue. I remember as a boy, learning that most people living in the decades between my grandparents and my parents stopped working at about 65 and then died within 5 years of that date. As I remember, many times it was within a year of when they stopped working. Coincidentally, I also remember wondering if it was retirement that killed them.

We all are too aware of the medical advances that prolong life and life expectancy. Along with medical advances and what we now know about diet and the importance of simply taking care of yourself, it still seems to catch people by surprise when it is suggested that the time between retirement and death is 30 years.

This duration of time can be hard for many people to accept. They are confronted with the blank pages of life ahead and not understanding exactly what is needed to paint those pages with activity, let alone meaning. It is a disconcerting realization and can often be confusing. Some want to continue to duck the opportunity as being too scary while others are just bewildered and anxious to embrace the opportunity.

My personal journey of making sense of this stage and filling those blank pages with meaning and purpose is both challenging and exciting.

The opportunity to embrace the opportunity and to change the outcome of those decades for thousands from “nothing” to something of value is personally energizing. It is a life purpose I can be passionate about and it is a life purpose I am passionate about. The Live with Meaning Foundation and Retirement Reformation Movement will fill those blank pages for me.

An early question about this topic is, “What is the difference between ageism, longevity and old?” When initially considering these three, the tendency is to simply conclude that they are synonyms. We react that way because we think about retirement, the 4th Quarter, as one life stage instead of the three that it is. In addition, we don’t differentiate between ageism, longevity and old.

A brief definition of each will help make the distinctions between them. Without distinctions in mind, we can’t expand our comprehension. Creating a lexicon of longevity is important to understanding it. Here is an example:  Bob Buford’s Halftime definition of Life 1 and Life 2, might be expanded to now include Life 3. Life 1 extends through the 40s while Life 2 is defined as the remainder of life. Let me suggest that Life 2 ends at around the age of 65 and the time after that is Life 3. Life 3 then becomes an addition to the lexicon of longevity.

Defining Ageism: The biological process of ongoing deterioration of life’s support systems. When a key part of any life support system fails, we die. Ageism is sometimes used to describe the way we characterize those over 65.

Defining Longevity: The ongoing chronology of age. Longevity is the expected or usual length of time a group of people will live. Longevity is based on a group while ageism is about the individual.

Defining Old: How old you are is not a function of age or longevity, it is a function of attitude. Attitude is the way you think about something or someone and is reflected in your behavior. Your attitude determines your relational age, not your chronological age or in what longevity group you find yourself.

How we think impacts all aspects of our life. Here is a series of connected thoughts that will change the course of your life:

Principles guide thinking.

Thinking guides acting.

Acting determines character.

Character determines your life, relationships, and future.

  (Robert Bender)

The future referred to above reflects longevity and age. It is how we handle the “old” that is the most important.

It is important because it is here that we find our meaning and purpose, and as Christians, we play our unique and key roles in building the Kingdom of God demonstrated to us by Jesus.

The meaning of old has changed significantly. Visualize a 60-year-old in 1940, 1950, or 1960. Now visualize a 60-year-old in 2017 and later. Yesterday I saw a news story about a woman in her late 60s who is a fashion icon across the western world. She is active, attractive, and amazingly engaging.

In many churches and organizations what we want from the old people is for them not to be “grumpy” or have a bad attitude. Oh, and we want them to keep giving too. The opposite of grumpy is someone filled with the Spirit and demonstrating how Jesus lives in them and then this is reflected to others.

It helps to understand the differences between ageism, longevity, and old. The interaction and points of intersection between those different ideas is a good starting point in understanding what it will mean to live a life of meaning and purpose during Life 3 – the 4th Quarter – the 30 years of your life after retirement.

Life is a journey, longer than we realize and filled with more opportunities to impact others than we acknowledge.

Let’s figure out how to travel together experiencing the love, joy, and peace of a Jesus follower. Let’s be faithful for a lifetime.


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