Keep Going or Draw the Drapes?

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Why keep going into our 70s and 80s? We’re told that seniors stagnate with stress that comes from problems such as passivity, and lack of purpose. But what if retirement symbolized renewal?

Back when I wrote curriculum, led brain conferences, and supported organizational change, I fought against pigeonholes women slipped into when guys got rewarded for the same work, and women fought harder for far less.

Senior meant bagel-gumming on a tour bus and women denied their age, to avoid simply existing after they retire. We still tend to denigrate elders by geriatric jokes, and we render seniors invisible by housing arrangements that remove their voice and autonomy.

Yet, most female seniors in my circles remain vibrant, resilient and they thrive more on a lifetime of wisdom. How so? We come alive magically from personal contentment, and an empathy that finds us supporting and caring more about those around us.

We simply don’t miss career competitions since collaboration fits us far better anyway. Instead, we find freedom from worries about our appearance as a way to please others or get ahead. We simply have freed ourselves for greater challenges that help us grow. Our long lived experience cache certainly swing us faster from problems into possibilities, but our resilience expands our inner capabilities for life-changing emotional and cognitive growth in this new ring.

We’ve learned how curiosity leads to skills and mindful choices for a finer day. We toss humor and appreciation into the ring to increase our capacity for any evidence of growth along with acceptance of inevitable struggles that come with age.

We may have less in trusts than we’d hoped, and more new lumps or bumps than we’d anticipated. Nevertheless, we’re still able to flourish because we’ve learned to make things work, from the little or lot we have. After years of trying to prove something to somebodies, we’re content to smell fresh apple trees during a fall golf game, and taste new flavors with much the same delight our grandchildren savor ice cream.

Our satisfaction comes more from newly awakened imagination, because we’ve exchanged coveting what we lack to optimizing almost everything we have. Unhindered by any daily grind to survive, we’ve learned how to cultivate most everything we need, and we help others to do the same.  From within our brain’s basal ganglia storehouse we stockpile peace plans and replay kinder memories and in our brain’s working memory we awaken magical control buttons for delightful new choices.

With our newly focused attention on fun, we find pathways forward that seemed unavailable in younger years. We discover love all around us, by allowing beauty and wonder to spill into our lives at unexpected moments. We begin our days with a sense of thankfulness and the simplest events tend to fill us with gratitude.

We experience delight by spotting a butterfly making the most of a sunny day.

We have learned the value of newly fulfilled expectations, and the delight of supporting our adult children, without demanding they understand our joys, listen to our sorrows or appreciate our  treasures drawn from life pools deeper than younger dippers reach.

Most of the seniors I talk to no longer expect perfection, nor do they demand relief from loss or suffering. Joy comes more from simple pleasures such as a call from a friend, or a new flavor of tea to read a good book while curled up next to a fire. We listen more with our brains, so we say no faster without suffering pangs of guild, or anxiety that comes from a driven mind.

We’ve learned more mature and renovated approaches to reconcile with long-term relationships, and donned wings to fly over unreasonable demands as we recognize how life changes daily even for seniors. Many of us refuse to be defined by vulnerabilities, and instead learn to catch long view glimpses of a courage beyond disappointments to embrace emotional strength together with friends and family on the other side.

Armed with a lifetime of courage fit for more mindful senior years, we head into our 70s, 80s and beyond, with more wisdom to build a better life and more laughter to leave behind for those we love along the way.

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Created by Ellen Weber, Brain Based Tasks for Growth Mindset