Retirement— the holy grail,the light at the end of the tunnel, the paved road…Finally the time has come when you can relax, sit back, enjoy time with your spouse, take up those hobbies you never had time for, spend time with your family, take that vacation you always dreamed of.
Unfortunately, as that retirement age gets pushed back further and further and we need more and more money to maintain a comfortable existence, we are finding that retirement is not always all that it’s cracked up to be. Those supposed “golden years” are often filled with heartache, loss of loved ones, declining health, financial and marital strain. With the loss of purpose, direction, and meaning, isolation & loneliness can settle in. What were those hobbies you had always dreamed of taking up anyway? They may seem impossible now. The kids who seem to no longer need you have their own lives to live, and suddenly you feel as though you’ve become a burden. What is one to do?
We live in a society that does not necessarily value our elders. Our world has enormous amounts of information readily available at our fingertips. Many people, especially younger generations, do not understand the invaluable experience and knowledge that comes from living life. It is not until we have walked through and survived the seemingly impossible, that we learn what we are truly capable of, and find that we have strength beyond our wildest imaginations.
I have always been struck by the WWII generation. Listening to their struggle, what they lived through, is almost unimaginable to us now. Yet, they were somehow one of the happiest generations we’ve seen. I asked a WWII Veteran once, what he believed was different about that generation versus who we are today. He replied, “we were all working towards a common goal together—the war effort”. During WWII, in order to survive, people needed to rely on one another. So this had me asking, what is to be learned from this generation? For me it is that when we work together towards a goal bigger than ourselves we find community. Get involved, find a cause worthy of your time and energy. It is in community that we experience purpose, meaning, belonging and true happiness. It is not so much that we need our health, jobs, money, etc. , but that we need each other. It is in this that we find our “golden years” after all.