Tag Archives: Aging

I’m On My Next to the Last Dog

31 Mar

A few weeks ago I attended a conference on positive aging. As a Baby Boomer I have an acute interest in what aging looks like in the future.  A key theme of the conference was positive and purposeful aging. I kept hearing 60 is the new 40 (music to my ears since I turned 60 this year).  Speaker, Marc Freeedman, CEO of Encore.org., called for a new paradigm on aging.  He took issue with statements saying later life is just a pale imitation of our earlier lives. He argues against retirement communities where residents are surrounded exclusively by the aged rather than a variety of ages.

I have been struck by the fact no one has yet managed to concoct e a satisfactory label for our post middle age years.   At the conference I heard references to… “The vintage Years” (hated it); “Act 3 or Chapter 3” (not a fan); “the afternoon of our lives” (nah).  Freedman suggested the following, “I’m on my next to the last dog.” Any way we can approach aging joints and our sense of mortality with humor, has great appeal to me. Freedman also suggested a “Gap Year for Grownups”.  As the mother of children who took more than a few gap years to find themselves between college and careers, I think a gap year to help us transition to later life and try out new roles is a splendid notion.

Now back to this concept of purposeful aging. Conference speakers emphasized the importance of identifying a purpose in our lives, how older people with a purpose and meaning are 2.4 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.  So, how do we go about identifying our purpose for our next to the last dog years? Victor Strecher, Ph.D. at University of Michigan’s school of public health suggests the following exercise:

 Identify your core values.  For example, which of the following 4 values resonates the most with you- kindness, security, expertise, achievement, spirituality, creativity, vitality, tradition, self control, responsibility, independence, and enjoyment? Now, write a sentence personalizing these values, i.e. Vitality- “My health, vigor, and energy are essential in helping me navigate my life.”  Once you have written a specific statement for each value, write a paragraph weaving these 4 or 5 concepts into a Statement of Purpose.  This Statement of Purpose can serve as a guide helping you make choices about how and where you want to spend your time, energy and resources.

I would love for you to share your Statements of Purpose below in the comments section.  Send them to losethebeige@gmail.com if you would rather have me post them for you.  Happy envisioning.strecher


Say Hello, Not Goodbye, to your Golden Years

23 Nov

Since I’m a boomer who is trying her hat at various creative entrepreneurial endeavors, I read with interest, an article in Sunday’s New York Times written by Harvard economist, Edward Glaeser. The article was entitled, Goodbye Golden Years, a title sure to elicit fear in those of us hoping to retire at some point during the next ten years or so. And, Glaeser did not disappoint. The article was filled with statements and statistics such as the following: “Retirement seems out of the question for increasing numbers of Americans who are saddled with debt and whose savings evaporated during the recent bust.” and, “Many older workers keep working because they feel they can’t afford not to. Nearly 40% of 55-64 year olds don’t have retirement accounts. The median net worth of this age group is now $254,000. Americans save less than 4% of their income; thrifty Germans save 10%. A nation that prefers spending to saving is going to find it difficult to enjoy a comfortable retirement.”

He goes on to talk about our parent’s generation- the silent generation (those born during the great depression and WWII) and the GI Generation. According to Glaeser, 47% of +65ers were in the labor force in 1949; by 1993 that number had shrunk to 16%. Our parents enjoyed a retirement scenario unprecedented in our history, and one that may not be available to us. Potentially depressing thoughts, I would agree, but don’t despair, did we ever really envision ourselves just playing golf or bridge four days a week? OK, so maybe one or two days a week. We are the Baby Boom generation! We strive for meaning in our lives, whether that meaning takes the form of career opportunities or social causes.

I can’t imagine not being productive, not contributing, not making my own money. Glaeser suggests America needs more entrepreneurship and we are at a juncture in our lives to provide it. West Palm beach, a retiree haven, has the highest self-employment rate of any metropolitan area in the nation; consistent with other areas in the country attracting older Americans. Self-employment makes sense because it allows for more control over working hours and conditions. And our generation loves control.

Many of us have spent years waking up at 6:00 am to be at a job we found depleting. If we are to work for years to come, let’s make it work on our terms. Here are a few suggestions.

– If we want to enjoy a high quality of life from now until 90, exercise is a critical component. If you have not already done so, it’s time to develop an exercise plan; join a YMCA or other gym; walk or ride a bike. Rather than having to fit your exercise schedule into your work schedule, however, allow your work endeavors to accommodate your exercise schedule so you don’t have to be going to the gym at 5:30 in the morning.

-Choose an enterprise that fits your circadian rhythm (internal clock) one that allows you to rise and go to bed at a time best suited for you.

-Delve into your psyche through journaling or quiet reflections; explore what you have a passion for. You may want to undergo a personality assessment to discover a field that suits you.

-Make it fun. We are the generation who invented rock and roll. We like to have fun. Now is your chance…Happy planning

Flower Power

19 Feb

I created a clay sculpture entitled, “Flower Power”, a picture of which is below. Flower Power was a prominent symbol in the 60’s. I remember this era well and find it almost incomprehensible I am actually cresting toward the age of 60. On one hand, I’m grateful for the experience. I’m grateful not to be as insecure as I was in the 60’s. I’m grateful not to have to engage in endless hours of competition with my peers (am I as pretty, as smart, as funny?). But sometimes I’m afraid I’m running out of time to be able to do all the things I want to do. What about you? As we find ourselves aging into our 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, how can we creatively spend these years?