- What does confidence look like in our elder years?
- How do we claim our authority as an elder?
- How would we rate our relationship with our self?
Recently I have had the opportunity to be a listener for some friends who are sharing the challenges they face in their elder years. What I have learned from these conversations is that many retired people who have been very successful find it difficult to know who they are without a career. They feel worthless and even invisible.
Some are not closely connected to their families or don’t have children, many are migrating to a new sea change or tree change paradise, and encountering loneliness and isolation. Financial stress and worry about other family members can contribute to a feeling of overwhelm. The recent inquiry into aged care reveals that many older people are despairing that they will be respected and cared for as they would wish.
I must admit that as a young woman I did not think about planning for retirement, and now that it is upon me what are my foundations? This stage of life allows for reflection, and time to explore the meaning of authority in a new way.
One of the most valuable things that I have learned is the importance of building a loving relationship with myself first.
Establishing this relationship means trusting my inner knowing, and looking within for answers rather than outside. It has meant letting go of old patterns of thought, of emotions, of judgements that are debilitating and destructive.
A loving relationship with myself means looking after my body with exercise that suits my age and my body, preparing nourishing meals and making sleep the restorative purpose it can be.
Practicing conscious presence brings harmony to the body, when the mind is focused on what the body is doing throughout the day. This will never be a perfect synchronicity but I have found that over time practice becomes a natural rhythm.
For example, making my bed each morning is such a simple step, and sets a foundation for my day.
It is honouring of my relationship with my husband, as we always have a beautifully made bed welcoming us each night. Establishing these rituals creates a flow to our day and harmony in our home.
Another foundation which I feel is powerful is acceptance – of limitations in the body, of ourselves and others, and the world. This leads to inclusiveness and an ability to see the bigger picture.
Acceptance leads to appreciation – of our self first then extending that out to everyone. Finding things to appreciate at the end of each day as part of a review of the day is a great way to complete the day and prepare for sleep.
Regarding retirement from a career that gave us status or self esteem, as we let go of identity the space is there for expansion, harmony, oneness. We are more than a job description, a grandparent, a breadwinner.
Letting go of identity and past ‘success’ makes space for deepening relationships. Our relationships can embrace those moments as we pass someone on our walk, or at the supermarket, connecting with people beyond our immediate circle of family and friends. Every moment counts, as we know how a smile exchanged with a stranger can lighten our step.
In our elder years we have time for reflection and we can make changes to ensure that we feel vital, inspired and engaged during this cycle of life. I ask myself what quality of life do I want to enjoy now? What is important? How do I make this stage of life full of meaning, purpose and joy? As the body weakens and ages, the focus for me has become the inner life. How am I feeling? How can I be useful? What can I contribute and where?
We have a life of experience behind us and we have learned and seen a lot.
And we can keep learning – about life!
Appreciation and claiming our authority as an elder means staying in the driver’s seat, and valuing who we are as well as our lived experience.
We can bring something of what we have learned to younger generations. We can bring all of ourselves to every day. We can choose to keep growing and learning. There is much to celebrate when we connect to the purpose that is there to be felt in all of these intentions and activities.
The meaning of authority as an elder means that we are at one with ourselves, that we feel whole and complete. From this place of love, claiming our authority can be a powerful and playful path to exploring our relationship with our self, to ensure that we live this cycle of life with purpose and joy, knowing that the way we live is a reflection for everyone.
Bernadette C, Australia
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