A few weeks ago I attended a conference on positive aging. As a Baby Boomer I have an acute interest in what aging looks like in the future. A key theme of the conference was positive and purposeful aging. I kept hearing 60 is the new 40 (music to my ears since I turned 60 this year). Speaker, Marc Freeedman, CEO of Encore.org., called for a new paradigm on aging. He took issue with statements saying later life is just a pale imitation of our earlier lives. He argues against retirement communities where residents are surrounded exclusively by the aged rather than a variety of ages.
I have been struck by the fact no one has yet managed to concoct e a satisfactory label for our post middle age years. At the conference I heard references to… “The vintage Years” (hated it); “Act 3 or Chapter 3” (not a fan); “the afternoon of our lives” (nah). Freedman suggested the following, “I’m on my next to the last dog.” Any way we can approach aging joints and our sense of mortality with humor, has great appeal to me. Freedman also suggested a “Gap Year for Grownups”. As the mother of children who took more than a few gap years to find themselves between college and careers, I think a gap year to help us transition to later life and try out new roles is a splendid notion.
Now back to this concept of purposeful aging. Conference speakers emphasized the importance of identifying a purpose in our lives, how older people with a purpose and meaning are 2.4 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. So, how do we go about identifying our purpose for our next to the last dog years? Victor Strecher, Ph.D. at University of Michigan’s school of public health suggests the following exercise:
Identify your core values. For example, which of the following 4 values resonates the most with you- kindness, security, expertise, achievement, spirituality, creativity, vitality, tradition, self control, responsibility, independence, and enjoyment? Now, write a sentence personalizing these values, i.e. Vitality- “My health, vigor, and energy are essential in helping me navigate my life.” Once you have written a specific statement for each value, write a paragraph weaving these 4 or 5 concepts into a Statement of Purpose. This Statement of Purpose can serve as a guide helping you make choices about how and where you want to spend your time, energy and resources.
I would love for you to share your Statements of Purpose below in the comments section. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org if you would rather have me post them for you. Happy envisioning.