In 2011, the first of the baby boom generation reached what used to be known as retirement age. And for the next 17 years, boomers will be turning 65 at a rate of about 8,000 a day. As this unique group grows older, it will likely transform the institutions of aging — just as it has done to other aspects of American life. In unprecedented numbers we are asking, What Now?
The reality is, traditional retirement is nearly out of breath as lifetimes grow longer. And with the economic downturn of the last few years, retirement at the traditional 65 is not financially possible for many. For others, the idea of 30 or more years of unproductive time is scary. So many boomers have pushed the decision out into the future. Consequently, we can enter the new world of the third third of life without a plan or a purpose.
Dr. George Vaillant concluded in his work with the Harvard Study of Adult Development there are four personal characteristics which enrich our travel through life:
HOPE – an orientation toward tomorrow with anticipation and planning
THANKFULNESS – embracing gratitude and forgiveness
EMPATHY and LOVE – the ability to see the world through others’ eyes
ENGAGEMENT – a desire to do things with people
While these four personal characteristics are important for the entire path of life, they are critically important for those age 50 and beyond! Without anticipation of the path ahead, gratitude, empathy and a connection with others, older adults can soon slide into a funk. Studies have shown that people who retire at 55 are 89% more likely to die within ten years when compared to those who retire at 65. It would be interesting to know if there is a correlation between the loss of hope and orientation for the future and a decline of engagement with others?
One of my favorite scriptures comes to mind, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV).
Do you have a plan for the future? Are you living with hope? Are you experiencing gratitude and forgiveness in your daily journey? Are you seeking to build love and empathy into all of your relationships? Are you walking the journey with others? If you are missing out on one or more of these four, what is one thing you could change today?
QUESTION: What are you doing to stay hopeful, thankful, empathetic and engaged? Share it below in the comment section.