Monday, January 17, 2011

WK: 34 - Do we get the old age we deserve?

I wonder sometimes if we get/make the old age we deserve.  What do you think? Banks are after us all the time to give them our cash to invest for our future years. What about our emotional, physical and intellectual investment portfolios?  Are we prepared and ready?  Are we making choices about the kind of future we will live? Old age is the last act of our life drama.  It’s our last chance to live life fully - enlightened by a life-time of experience.  How do we want to spend our senior years?  For health, financial, family or other reasons, most of us can’t do everything - we need to make pointed choices.

Some of these are easier than others - where we want to live, the kind of lifestyle we want to have, the bottom line we are willing to accept in relation to where we are positioned in this consumer world of ours.  What do we really need to live a happy senior life?  What are the absolute, rock-bottom necessities we just don’t want to live without?  For me it is location - northern pine trees, river-water, walking.  Close, loving friends balanced with deep solitude and pin-dropping quietude.  The ability and time to walk.  An independent life with health.  Time to reflect on life - the past, the future, God and what it’s all about.  An ability to live in the moment. Time to be creative for no other earthly reason than the pure joy of it. Time to listen to the birds, walk along the river bank with the ducks and beavers, take note of the minute changes of the season. Time to be grateful - very grateful indeed - for life and breathing. Time to give back for some of the munificence I have received over my lifetime.

Some other choices take more work and honest self-assessment. We need to look at who we want to be - or not. We’ve all see in our families, amongst our friends, people at church, at the grocery store - the seniors who complain about how things 'aren’t the same', who feel every ache and ailment real and even imagined - all enlarged through the prism of self-preoccupation and isolation. The seniors who experience their lives to be too harsh and hard and not what they want; they are lonely and feel their families don’t care.  No one comes to visit. They have nothing they enjoy doing to fill their free time. They often don’t enjoy their meals and no longer like to read. Some seniors isolate themselves further with  barbed tongues, bitterness that has grown with the years or a lack of curiosity about others, an un-interest to try new things, new food, new books, new music, new vistas. Seniors who might adapt to change under pressure but sure don’t welcome it. In short they are people who no longer are enjoying life.

I confess to some of the above and I am alarmed by this because I am beginning to see that we are in later life who we are in middle age - only more so - in spades. We have justly deserved the right to firm opinions at a certain point in life.  And we have had a life time of accumulating understandable likes and dislikes about just about everything.  But old age isn’t static.  We aren’t suspended in time or yet at the 'end' of our life continuum - or learning curve!  We continue to change and grow til our very last breath.  We need to cultivate an enduring flexibility to meet the changes required of us as we continue along - if we are to be happy, productive souls.  I think how that happens depends on who we have groomed ourselves to be.  And whether we encourage ourselves to be creative, try a new recipe, a new crossword puzzle, exercise a little, walk in a different direction, think sideways, play, allow ourselves to be wrong occasionally, be jesters, try to find something enjoyable in the things we thought we didn’t like. Contribute to our families, our neighbourhoods and communities in any way we can and keep connected.  Remain interested, interesting, vital, hopeful human beings. Do things we wanted to do when we were younger but never had time.  We are never too old to try, to learn, to create, to live. To be an encouraging beacon to the next generation who follows us.

Old age isn’t just something that arrives unwelcome at our doorstep.  Or something we must endure til it's over.  It is an opportunity - a large, blank chapter of our book of life - awaiting the final exciting, life-giving details.  If we make some investments along the way in our middle years - cultivate interests other than work, make our friend network larger not smaller, deepen our family ties, loosen our opinionated minds and let a new idea or two float in, realistically balance our tangible expectations with our soul-needs, keep active and vital and interested in life and people and our communities - then to the extent that is allowed us, we can write a delicious final act.

Thanks for walking along with me on my footpath this week.