Older and happier?

I’m of the age (71) that I’m trying to think ahead and figure out the options for a life with currently compromised mobility.  This takes time and I am taking that time. Yes, I am thinking about that while I still drive my car, enjoy my own home, and delight in many community activities.  It’s a process, this preparing the another phase of life, and I’m in the middle of it.

What a wonderful evening I spent last night at the local retirement “village.” This is one facility where the-8o plus in age, having given up mowing the lawn, taking out the trash, cooking 3 meals a day, spend their “second” phase of retirement.  There is a little more assistance for the tasks of daily living…like driving if you are no longer safe on the road, and cooking regular delicious meals.  I will be in such a place some day–very possibly sooner than later.

What delighted me was to sit with other not yet committed, wait-listed, folks all over 80 .  A 90-year old was still sailing, hiking, and biking and looked 75. He wasn’t ready to commit.  The others were thinking hard about it, but still not quite ready to make their move.  What also delighted me was the affirmation of being with people who were absolutely still doing what they loved:  An 80-year old still involved in her museum work, an 82 -year old former PhD scientist now winning awards with his photography, the aforementioned 90-year old, leading Appalachian Mountain Trail hikes and building Habitat for Humanity homes, the 80-year old former teacher volunteering at the local hospice shop doing the sewing and repairing of garments donated, using a talent and skill she absolutely loved to contribute.  And me, observing, and writing about the possibilities of a good life after 65.

At 71, I felt honored to be among these 80 plus people.  And I felt hopeful.  According to Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot in her book The Third Chapter: Passion, Risk, and Adventure in the 25 Years After Fifty,  the period from ages 50 – 75 can be an interesting time for those who are leaving what they’ve done for most of their career, who are making many life changes, or being changed by unanticipated or even unwelcome events, as was I. It’s can be period of curiosity, learning,  loss and liberation.  I’m just starting this book, but already I can feel the need for a sequel.  What about the next age group 75-90, who seem to have retained their health, and have little inclination to give up what they love, and keep finding ways to learn, explore and contribute as their bodies allow.  Those I met last night, will remain models in my mind for a very long time. I am grateful. Models in one’s mind are powerful influencers of the trajectories of life.  I gained a willingness not to give up on the  possibilities that exist for me, my own current physical limitations notwithstanding.

Yes, taking time to get out of my comfort zone was worth it.  It’s clear to me since last night that, my options have just expanded, and my commitment to not giving up on joy during times of discouragement has deepened.  Everyone deserves to orchestrate such a “boost” for themselves.  And chatting with folks you find along the path, is FUN for FREE. The “do what you love” journey continues.