As a retiree, I often encounter former colleagues or friends who express their envy of my retirement status. Next, they usually advise me of the number of years or months they have left until their retirement becomes a reality.
While this is an understandable goal for most in the workforce, it does come with a price, namely, that they will be entering the final stage of their lives. The quest then becomes how to make this segment of our remaining years as enjoyable and meaningful as possible.
It’s only natural for us to think that when we reach this particular point in our lives, things will be better. These golden years can be happy ones if applied properly. For many, unfortunately, retirement years become purposeless and without any real joy.
Some of this can be the result of our own choosing, while other factors are simply beyond our control. The quality of our health is by far the greatest single factor that impacts us at any stage, but it usually affects us in our declining years to a much greater extent.
For many, it becomes the interaction with others, or the lack thereof, that impacts their existence, especially in regard to family relations. There are, of course, numerous other factors that influence the quality of our lives. Financial and economic circumstances are often a determining factor to the extent that we can enjoy life. We are also limited by where we live and play. Even the simple lack of sunshine can temporarily lower our spirits. And our religious affiliation affects how we view and react to circumstances.
Should people who have reached the ripe old age of 100 consider themselves lucky? Perhaps so if their faculties and their physical health are intact. That, however, is rarely the case. Their spouses and at least some of their children have often passed. Most of their friends are also gone and so it becomes a life of loneliness and waiting.
My Mom is approaching 101 and while she is physically declining, she is still mentally very alert. Having had to raise four young children on her own during the difficult and frightful years of World War II was only part of the harsh life she endured during most of her existence. Although she is comfortable and well-cared for in her assisted living quarters, with my Dad and oldest brother having passed, she often wonders why she is still here. Mom is ready to go. While we are grateful for still having her with us, we also try to understand her desire to reach the ultimate goal.
With life will come many disappointments. We must be careful not to allow ourselves to be dominated by thoughts of what we do not have or cannot do. Such thoughts are paralyzing and detract from what we can do.
Although it is not always possible, I look for the things that give me pleasure, and that begins with my first cup of coffee in the morning. Mental and physical activities are not only beneficial for my well-being, they also provide a feeling of accomplishment. Family and friends are a special blessing and add much joy. In our relationships, we have to be careful to not just become takers but also accept responsibility to bring joy to others.
Our retirement years are what we make of them. We may not have control over all aspects of our later years, but our attitudes greatly influence how much we enjoy these so-called golden years.