My Psalm 71
The Art of Growing Old
The annual conference was not eagerly looked forward to but was a requirement for all receiving funding from a certain foundation. Former attendees gathered at the coffee and pastry table, nodding to those with whom they shared a brief acquaintance and intense wish to be somewhere else. Suddenly an announcement was made that the opening session would be delayed thirty minutes due to” technical circumstances”. Murmurs of displeasure from the group were in agreement as they moved toward a seating area. Once seated, one woman spoke up: “Sorry, but I’m in a bad mood so just disregard me.” Another expressed polite concern asking if she felt alright. “Yes, just mad at my husband. He sits and watches television when he comes home. The remote is in one hand; his cell phone in the other hand.” A third spoke up saying her husband was retired and he sat and watched movies all day long with his iPad. Several others joined in and bemoaned the lack of “living” they saw in their respective spouses. “It isn’t healthy”, said the first. “It defies science.”
As the Baby Boomer generation enters retirement, it has been noted that they are not aging like their parents and grandparents. They have been aided in this phenomenon with better cosmetics and plastic surgery options. Once a secret done only by women and seldom if ever admitted to, hair color has become the norm and is utilized by both men and women.
The graying of America has been reported on and studied for the past eight years. In 2003 a government report indicated that less than one in five men age sixty-five and older were working. In 1950 almost fifty percent of men that age worked. “We have made a lot of progress in improving the health and well-being of older Americans, but there is much left to do,” NIA Director Richard Hodes. As pensions became prevalent, people felt comfortable retiring and not working past age 65. However, such pensions are defaulting as companies suffer financial woes. Retirement is no longer the panacea of the senior citizen.
In a recent Forbes article, Robert Laura, a self-described “retirement activist”, discussed the mental challenges of retiring: “The problem is, we live in a “What have you done lately?” society, where the past has diminishing value. Now, all of a sudden, you’re just Bob, John, or Carol who is retired, and saying you formerly ran a department, business, or were part of a special project team has about all the significance of winning the science fair, being homecoming king or earning all-state honors as a swimmer in high school. Once again, it’s a mental situation that chips away at some retirees’ self-esteem and one’s perception of oneself. These folks may not have realized the role either their company or title played, but now they’re saddled with the need to figure it out and move on with a happy face.”
In today’s society everything is about “branding”, the instant recognition that comes with a name or design logo. In the workplace, everyone has a brand. “I’m Susie from Fordstrom”; “My name is Charles and I’m VP at Wallingsford”. For years the most recognized logo was the pink Cadillac that the Mary May Company gave to top level leaders. Who hasn’t driven past the famous golden arches with kids and not heard “Can we puh-leeease have McDonald’s?” These two companies hit the jackpot in the branding department. Most people have tied their personal identity in with their professional one and when they retire, they feel lost without a “brand”.
Is retirement, even for just the evening hours, really just about coming home and sitting in front of a television set watching movies from one’s childhood? In his article, Robert Laura addressed one of the most common mental health issues of retirement – the feeling of being alone. Between the years 2000 and 2010, the number of people in the age bracket 65-84 years of age grew by 3.3 million. In June of 2014 over forty-two thousand people age sixty-five years and older collected social security. Clearly those in retirement have company. Usually though, they do seem isolated. Laura advises: “Be productive! It’s what makes life and retirement a journey instead of a destination. “
The Principle of Least Action basically holds that things happen in a way that required the least amount of effort or energy. It is the principle that says the shortest distance between two objects is a straight line. It also provides the basis for the theory that, if you drop a ball, it will try to roll towards the earth’s center.
So are those who choose to define retirement as a time for simply sitting engaging in evidence that supports the Principle of Least Action? A first glance might support that premise. The truth is, however, that the less we move, the less we maintain the ability to move. Being productive is not just a physical thing; it improves mental and emotional states as well. Man is a social being and without social interaction, lethargy leads to stagnation and death.
It should also be noted that the Principle of Least Action is not supported by Quantum Physics. Quantum theory is the science that attempts to explain how things relate at the most basic of all levels. It has allowed for some of the most recent technological advancements but has yet to prove superior in all facets. It holds that an object will take multiple paths when traveling from one place to another and can exist in two states at once, such as having light and sound at the same time.
Certainly, having spending either a day or a career in the rat race that the professional world requires, it is important to relax. However, when that relaxation becomes the least possible action, then we need to remember we are a multi-faceted being and as such, need to express ourselves as a quantum particle and make the most of the journey of growing old. Being productive means more than a viewing repertoire of movies past. It means contributing to the world in order to make the world and our lives last. The best way to “feel groovy”, as senior citizens would say, is to be a part of the world, walk the cobblestones, and help another.
My Psalm 71
My Lord, Father and Creator,
I have trusted you my entire life.
You have been with me all my days.
There are those who would push me aside,
Treat me like an old worn out antique.
Do not discard me as the world has done, Lord.
Be my guide as the sun starts to set.
Walk with me on the beaches of my memories.
My faith is my path now, Lord.
Please continue to walk it with me.
Give me strength in days future as in days past.
Your glory will illumine my path;
Your mercy will shine around me.
I will dance to the love you freely give
And share your glory with all.