So, what does the futurehold for us? Will it mean that elders will need to be proactive in all decision-making processes whether it is personal, physical or political?
Yes, definitely – empowerment for elders is in our hands – now and in the future but only if we are actively engaged in our commitment to life during these final decades.
The repercussions of retiring from full-time work can have significant changes to our lifestyle. One of the aspects that many elders encounter is the reduction to our financial status which may be associated with loss of identity and self-worth. One of our responsibilities in preparing for our future is to develop, long before our retirement date, a deep appreciation of who we are and what we bring from our inner essence. It is this quality that needs to be valued, over and above what we do, what we earn, or even our career status.
When we have this basic foundation of self-love, we are not so affected by these changes that retirement can bring. We are more open and are able to adapt to our new lifestyle and the possibilities that lie ahead of us. Embracing this attitude will bring true empowerment for elders.
Many elders do feel a loss of identity and self-worth after retirement, due to the fact they no longer feel that they have anything worthwhile to contribute to society. When we had things to do such as a job to go to and/or children to look after, it gave us a sense of purpose to our lives. Without such responsibilities we are left with the question, ‘What is our purpose in our elder years?’
It is really important now to give our life meaning and to stay committed to living a fully engaged life.
This commitment will look different for different people, there is no blueprint, no to-do list, no rules to follow – just a deep appreciation that we have much to offer and much to share from our elder wisdom and life experiences. With this verve for living, things can open up to us, new opportunities can become available and life will be full of fun and joy.
As noted in Part 2 of ‘What does the Future Hold’, loneliness is a big problem for many elders, particularly as the years pass by and we lose contact with previous work colleagues, and experience the passing of our partners, family members and friends. We can make friends at any age by taking the opportunities to establish new friendships and relationships with those we feel a connection to, rather than lament the fact that we are lonely.
It is up to us to break the cycle of loneliness by being prepared to make the effort to be proactivein seeking opportunities to make new connections and friendships.
Many elders retire in a state of exhaustion and this is not alleviated by no longer working or not having responsibilities. In fact, it can be compounded if we sink into an inactive lifestyle and become lethargic by watching too much TV, overeating or undereating, or having cat naps (Hey! I like my cat naps!!) throughout the day. This can make us more prone to developing poor sleep patterns and having restless nights due to lack of activity and lack of fulfilment during the day, which leaves us feeling incomplete and therefore unable to settle.
These unproductive life patterns can lead to deteriorating emotional health which can then lead to more serious problems such as anxiety or depression. Instead of allowing these patterns to take over our lives we need to make some loving changes to our way of living.
It will be important for us to continue to make choices to develop loving, nurturing and caring habits that support our body into our elder years. We can join an exercise class that suits our level of fitness, we can go for walks with a friend or join a book club, a bridge club, enrol in a writers course, we can enjoy trying out new and nutritious recipes and invite people over for dinner – the list is endless and it is up to us to connect with what truly interests us.
If we stay actively engaged like this throughout the day, we are naturally ready to go to bed earlier and wake up refreshed in the morning. Sleep then becomes a rhythm of going to bed early and waking early. What’s that saying, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes you healthy, wealthy and wise.” Well let’s give it a go!
Life doesn’t switch off with retirement, in fact there are more on-switches for elders now than ever before, if we only open our eyes and search for meaningful ways to live as we age.
Learning and growing is not just the domain of the young, we are just as capable, if not more, of beginning a new phase in learning and growing in our elder years. This is the time when we can explore more deeply what interests us and all those things that we would have loved to have done that we had previously been too busy to include in our life. All of this contributes to us having a beautiful purpose as we age by developing a deeper understanding and realisation of what life has to offer us, which gives our life a meaningful purpose as we age.
At every stage of life there are new opportunities, and in order to turn around the negative stereotypes ofageing we have to take things into our own hands by acknowledging and appreciating our lived experience and by valuing our worth. If we take care of ourselves, working with our doctors and practitioners to support our own health choices, there is joy and purpose to be lived. When we take responsibility for our health and well-being, we inspire younger generations to understand that this is a beautiful stage of life. After all, we are still that youthful, playful person – young at heart on the inside!
Empowerment for elders is all about us taking the responsibility of being in the driver’s seat, so let’s rev the engine and off we go!!!!
Sandra N, Bernadette C, & Ruth A, Australia
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