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:

  1. HOPEan orientation toward tomorrow with anticipation and planning
  2. THANKFULNESSembracing gratitude and forgiveness
  3. EMPATHY and LOVEthe ability to see the world through others’ eyes
  4. ENGAGEMENTa 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.

8 responses to What Now?

  1. Cindy Burke on October 7, 2012 at 8:16 AM Reply

    In at most 5 years I will retire. I am looking forward to this to then do what I want to do. Read, socialize, have a clean house, and relax for awhile! I may continue to do private tutoring or try the Virtual HS website. If I needed a part-time job, I would do anything that did not have me doing work at home. I have had 30+ years of checking papers, making tests, doing lesson plans, etc. every evening, weekend, holidays.
    My belief, and one that I have instilled in my sons, is that good relationships with people are the most important thing you can have.Helping people wherever and however you can is important.
    As my mother was preparing to move to Montana with my sister, she cried that she had lost everything, she had nothing left. Of course, she meant material posessions. I told her she had her life and good health, a caring family, and that is all you need. All material posessions are irrelevant, but she had a truckful of those going as well. But she is coming from an 84-year-old mentality that you needed things to make you happy.
    I wonder how I came to my world view when both my parents are of the material world view?

    • Dennis Gingerich on October 8, 2012 at 5:45 PM Reply

      Wonderful time to be processing all of this now, five years out!

  2. Teri Ziegler on October 4, 2012 at 11:43 AM Reply

    Thank you! This confirms that we are on the right track! A good checklist as we journey on…

  3. nolenrollins on October 4, 2012 at 8:44 AM Reply

    Spot on, Dennis. I have spent the past ten years working primarily with this target audience helpping them to find a mission for the net stage of their lives. Those who have found their mission are making greater impact than ever before in their lifetime.

    • Dennis Gingerich on October 8, 2012 at 5:46 PM Reply

      Thanks for the affirmation! You are a great mentor for me!

  4. Donna christner on October 4, 2012 at 8:12 AM Reply

    I already so much appreciate your blogs. They are so meaningful and thought provoking. Both blogs I have read make me just lift my hands to the Lord in worship and thankfulness.
    I would say for me that a daily walk with Jesus, which includes bible time, prayer, asking for a renewed spirit and forgiveness propels me toward these 4 components. Being transformed daily for me,is key. God is faithful to change us at the core level.

  5. Cathy on October 4, 2012 at 6:41 AM Reply

    We find ourselves frequently traveling and planning travel, which takes up a goodly portion of our daily time. As a follow-up to much of that travel I have found a larger sence of empathy for all portions of mankind. Staying active within the community also keeps us engaged both with each other and in life in general. Ray is the “road runner” I call him. If it weren’t for him, I probably wouldn’t be as involved in friendships and things going on around me as I am. I’m fully convinced that this is why God keeps hiim in my life and why I am so thankful to have him there.

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