As we age, we tend to slow down. The older we get, the more susceptible we are to physical deterioration and loss of mental acuity. It is the way of the world, and we need to accept that reality. But is this an accurate truism across the board?
Last weekend I joined my parents in celebrating their 80th birthdays with a gathering of family and approximately thirty friends acquired over the past fifty years. The average age in the room, excluding immediate family, was in the 80 plus range. As I mingled with attendees I recognized from when I was a kid, it quickly became apparent these people were not interested in slowing down. They were still very sharp and engaged with living. Wrinkles may have taken over their outward appearance, but their minds were wrinkle-free.
During the evening I crossed paths with Lonnie, who is over 80, and had just returned from a week of skiing at North Star. Alfred, 87, regaled us with minute details of the 39 cruises he has taken since retiring at 62. And George, who is also over 80, has discovered a second career after leaving medicine in the wine industry. Once a year he journeys to France where he tastes more than 300 different wines over a four-day period to select future purchases for his wine store.
How do they beat aging? I believe the secret to the continued sharpness of my parents and their friends is staying busy and engaged with living. None of these octogenarians defines retirement in terms of slowing down, relaxing, or sitting out life. They continue to be involved in a lifelong pursuit of worthy goals.
Their enduring friendships have been based on shared passions for playing bridge, tennis, and golf. They also attend local theater and concerts, travel, and host dinner parties with heated discussions about everything from politics to international events. They enjoy living each day and are always there for each other to share a happy moment or support a not-so-happy time. In their inner circle, happiness seems not so much about the individual but more about the group. For this group of seniors, retirement is not the end of life, but the beginning of the second act.
Dave Bernard is not yet retired but has begun his due diligence to plan for a satisfying retirement. With a focus on the non-financial aspects of retiring, he shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement–Only the Beginning.