When we were growing up, the thought of being older was very far away. Sure, we had grandparents, ancient aunts and uncles, but “older” was something that was more distant than Pluto. We never thought it would apply to us.
But we boomers are now getting on in years, and with it comes a whole new set of rules. It’s sobering, to say the least. After all, I’ve never been this age before. It’s not like cramming for an exam in college where you have all the answers after a few hours of study.
Thankfully, I had an early glimpse of seniors while growing up in my hometown of Studio City. On Pacoima Court, most of our neighbors were elderly. They were wonderful to us, and readily took us under their wrinkled wings when my mom was busy working.
We were regularly given brownies, cookies and a friendly pat on the head when we’d visit those seniors nearby. No doubt they were amused by our boundless energy, and our humorous antics.
They seemed cheery, no doubt because they were retired, and away from the slam of corporate life, deadlines, and belligerent bosses. In fact, most older people that I encounter now seem rather optimistic, a characteristic that no doubt serves them well as they advance in age.
Many seem to roll with the punches, and they’ve endured plenty. Loved ones passing, health issues, and economic woes are only a few of the challenges that have afflicted some of my octogenarian friends.
Some are also Holocaust survivors, and many have endured the Great Depression. Still, they soldier on, embracing the essence of each day with optimism, delight and humor. I’m amazed.
Some of my peers are not this buoyant. Few have retired, although they dream of doing so. I hear comments like “I can’t retire until I’m dead, “ and other laments attributed to the economic challenges of today. Many of my friends are dealing with the economic constraints of caring for elderly parents, making it especially hard for them to retire.
But then there are those who have rejoiced in their newfound freedom. I have a neighbor who sleeps until noon almost every day.
“Why not? Isn’t that what retirement is for?”
Some discover things they’ve been longing to do since high school. Many volunteer at local community centers. Others discover a passion for butterflies. or indulge in whirlwind travel adventures.
Besides writing, photography and travel, I’ve found great joy in trying my hand at improv, and collaborating with musicians around the world on several music forums. If my knees were still strong, I’d probably even entertain skydiving.
But for those who don’t have any hobbies, retirement is a scary abyss. People like this often retire for a while and then quickly get back to work again. At the very least, they work part-time.
So what does retirement mean to you? Is it in the cards, or just a distant dream?