“When grace is joined with wrinkles, it is adorable. There is an unspeakable dawn in happy old age.” Victor Hugo
Unlike most women, I wasn’t upset or depressed about this milestone. I’d begun my own business. I was busier than ever and felt I had purpose.
When we turned fifty, our life came crumbling down on us. My husband lost his successful advertising agency and we lost everything when we had to file for bankruptcy – our house went into foreclosure – our vehicles were seized. For a year or so, life was pretty dreary.
Our children were leaving the nest – or abandoning ship, depending how you look at it. In other words, our time of middle age could be construed as grounds for divorce or at least the loony bin. Still the pledge we made to each other 25 years prior meant something to us. So we pushed on.
At sixty another business or two was started. My husband discovered his love for wood sculpture and began creating works of art for some of the resorts and luxury homes. I, with all my years of volunteering in drama productions, focused my attention on building a children’s theatre company. When God closes a door, he also opens another. We continue to bump into closed doors, but have never failed with God at our side.
We were looking ahead to retirement, but the expenses incurred through average spending, were more than our income, so we had to downsize. De-cluttering is necessary for a number of reasons. Leaving that job to your children after your demise is just another thing for them to deal with. Also the longer you put it off, the harder the job becomes. The house was sold and we moved into a smaller one. Our expenses were cut in half, but our only source of income was Social Security. This meant we had to continue working to make ends meet.
During this decade doctors ask if you feel safe at home? – How many times have you fallen? You’re being prepared for old age whether you like it or not. You start holding on to things to help you stay upright. You ask friends how they are and they proceed with a litany of ailments that you can relate to. Prepare for a long answer.
During this time, we took my aging mother into our home. We had an extra bedroom and she needed constant attention because of her dependence on prescription drugs. It’s not easy taking over the role of parent to your parents, but again we muddled through. She lived with us for a year. The whole experience gave me another few years to enjoy her company.
While in this age group, we can easily fall into a trap. We sit in our chair, watch game shows on TV, look out the window, read a book or three and wait to die. Another much better option is to find a part time job, volunteer, join an exercise class, get involved in something you love to do and do it. I prefer the second option. I’d like to be around when the clock turns eighty. How about you?
The actual retirement process is here – as in applying for Social Security benefits. It’s funny how this has been slowly re-labeled over time. It used to be referred to as a retirement plan – a required amount of money taken out of your paycheck each week and matched by your employer. If the plan had been well managed, this would’ve lasted well into the twenty third century and then some. Now it’s called an entitlement program – right alongside welfare. Actually if you live to retirement age and depend entirely on Social Security, you could well be considered at poverty level, but I digress.
There are some steps you can take before you get to that point. Either start when you’re in your forties to set up a plan for those retirement years. A savings account or some type of investment is a great idea. Even if you save a few dollars a week, it will add up to a nice nest egg when the time comes. You can also find a job that you love, which will carry you beyond the retirement years. As long as you’re healthy and fit, you can work right up to the day you die.
Notice I said find a job that you love. If you aren’t happy with your current occupation, you never will be. Think of the things that you do like about your job and try to come up with something that fits. Work is called work for a reason. It isn’t always easy, but it can be enjoyable. If you have to work for the rest of your life, you might as well get some satisfaction from it.
Decide what you need and what you can let go of. Having collected two households from both sets of parents and accumulating our own clutter, made it quite a chore to downsize. Don’t count on your children having the same feelings about your things as you do. Chances are they won’t want grandma’s China or Grandpa’s old set of handmade tools. Plan to donate these things, sell them to antique dealers or pickers. Having garage sales is hard work at this age, so opt for an estate sale. Before you do, choose the things that you simply can’t part with, but remember that none of it is going with you when you die – so how much value does it really have? This can be a cathartic process. By letting go, you’re making room for a much easier life. Plus your kids won’t have to have that to deal with.
Plan on getting to know your spouse again. You’ll be seeing a lot of each other. At first you’ll get on each other’s nerves – bump into each other’s space – notice all their faults and mention them. You’ll soon discover you don’t have the energy to have an all out argument anymore, so your disagreements aren’t as frequent. Find time for yourself. Don’t give up the things you like to do. Learn to enjoy life together as you did when you first fell in love. These years don’t have to be filled with the passion of youth, but there can still be romance.
Don’t compare yourself to others. Your friends may be going through health issues or dying, but you are still the same vibrant person you always were. Don’t let their problems get you down, but also remember to be compassionate, because you may someday walk in their shoes.
During this decade it’s imperative to stay positive and turn to God in prayer. Our voices may crack a bit. Our bodies don’t have the bounce they once did, but God still hears our voice. He tells us to depend on Him. Now more than ever, we need that confidence.