Is that a Birthday Cake or a Bonfire?

As another birthday comes and goes, I’ve been thinking about the cultural values that we Americans share on aging.

Retirement

Financial planners build their careers tapping into that promise. Exciting travel. Leisure time with the ones you love. All very enticing — and yet — no one really wants to grow old. That’s okay for wine and cheese. But people? Not so much.

Golf Anyone?  

I think retirement has been romanticized.

Now, I’ll admit there’s something wonderful about having the day to yourself. Golf, tennis and hiking – assuming your knees and hips hold out. Walks in the fresh air – if you’re steady on your feet and it isn’t an ozone watch day.

Checking out a promotional flier for an adult community reveals happy seniors engaged in water volleyball, dancing and yoga. When you actually visit, most are sitting around playing cards and complaining. Wait. My mistake. No one plays cards anymore.

Yoga – Really?

My biggest concern about aging is staying mentally sharp. I want to continue to learn. Solve problems. And I don’t mean what to defrost for dinner.

And though I still enjoy working out — and do it often — I’ve come to respect the reality of what my body will and will not do. To those who advocate “no pain, no gain” — I say — “weeks of physical therapy and chiropractic visits”.

A Mindful Plan 

I’ve heard it said that the fastest route to depression is spending too much time focused on yourself. If you want to be truly happy, expand your horizons. Facing an empty day might be a real mood killer.

Plan Ahead

Check out groups to join. Expand your social boundaries. Explore volunteering. Turn a hobby into a passion. Take on a second career — something you’ve always wanted to do. Become a pet sitter, handyman, or gardener. Drive the elderly to doctor’s appointments. Do fundraising for a worthy charity. Audit University classes.

So How Old is Old?

It’s not a number — it’s a mindset. Be old enough to do what you want — and young enough — to have something to do.

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