I have been reading some of my early posts to this blog, many of which focused on aging, or to be more specific, focused on the ideas of “successful” aging and on what it meant to retire and to grow into a new way of life as an older person. Successfully.
This blog began as a retirement project, something that I newly had time to pursue after exiting from full-time work almost a decade ago. I looked upon retirement as my new job more or less and I felt I had to get it right because I also knew that I had just one shot at it.
I was curious to know what experts had to say about the matter. What could they tell me about getting older? What were the pitfalls I needed to look out for? How could I get aging mostly right?
In Successful Aging (January 2014), my research on getting it right identified capability, control and purpose the hallmarks of successful aging. That is, “success” might be measured by how much control I had over my circumstances. I wonder if that means that I gradually will become less successful as I grow older and my control over circumstances diminishes.
The experts said that successful aging would involve “life satisfaction” and finding meaning in life. Finding meaning in life is question for philosophers. I haven’t found the meaning of my life so far. I doubt that I ever will.
Am I satisfied with my life? Well, if satisfaction requires an absence of regrets and anxieties, then I don’t see how I can ever be satisfied.
Other experts have spent their quality time trying to identify the “phases” of retirement. Retirement is associated with aging but not the same thing. Everyone ages, but not everyone retires. Yet, what the experts have found out about successful retirement might hold clues about successful aging. I considered the experts’ thoughts on the phases of retirement in What’s In a Phase? (March 2014).
“Stability” is the goal of a successful retirement, they say. In the stability phase, the retiree has settled into a comfortable and rewarding niche. The “stable” retiree has established a “retirement routine.”
Just having a routine seems a very low hurdle for achievement of success. What has become routine could turn old and boring, which is hardly a prescription for feeling successful in one’s golden years.
A lot of what I do each day is similar to what I did the day before. This week looks a lot like last week. I did not plan to have such daily and weekly routines. I thought that I was doing whatever I wanted to do whenever I wanted to do it, but, lo and behold, it was a routine, though I prefer to think of it as a natural pattern. Having a “routine” sounds strenuous, like exercise or work. A natural pattern to life suggests something elegant and beautiful, something a bit mysterious, like a Fibonacci sequence.
In Optimal Living (January 2016), I wrote that success should not be the objective. Aging is not a career goal. I suggested that trying to live an “optimal” life would be a preferable objective, call it a success or not. But “optimal aging” is short of the mark as well. I find that there simply is not the scientific precision to life that “optimal” connotes. Aging is trial and error. The process of life is not a destination.
For me, what it means to successfully age will remain nebulous. I have not become bored with life, and that’s a good thing. I enjoy knowing that I have the freedom to alter the pattern if it suits me.
Or maybe I don’t.
What feels like an alteration might only be a piece of a larger pattern. My life is a fractal. How could I ever be bored with that beauty?
Some other stuff for later,
- 86It seemed that I had lived my life outside the fold. I entered into exile that way, on my own and without a sense of belonging to any group of like-minded souls. It came as no surprise. Still, the absence of kinship felt like a vacancy in my life—something missing,…
- 79And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter. And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land. [Exodus 2:21-22] It was the same but different. There was…
- 79There was no turning back from our exile. My life continued. Though living seemed optional, the alternative was complicated as much as it was inevitable. Did I live to avoid the complication of dying? There was more to it than that, I thought. Of course there was. But what was…