Getting More out of Later Life
EVERYONE wants to be able to enjoy living. It is no different if you are one who is in the later years of life. Although perhaps being more restricted in what you can do physically, you certainly want to get the most that you can out of life.
Those who have been better prepared for retirement say that, while they miss certain aspects of their former work, they now enjoy the less hectic pace. They can do things they had cultivated a liking for earlier in life but could not pursue due to a lack of time.
Many appreciate having more time to enjoy the wonders of creation. They enjoy working in gardens, going on trips, observing the trees, plants, flowers and animals. They find mental and physical stimulation in taking walks, enjoying this activity alone or in the company of others.
Then there are those who find much pleasure in having the time to read more. And if their eyesight is not keen enough, they like to listen to recordings, radio programs, or have others read to them. And they enjoy good conversations with people of all age groups.
Literary historian Malcolm Cowley, when he passed the age of 80, made this comment on what was to him another pleasurable activity:
“There are other pleasures as well, including some that younger persons find hard to appreciate. One of them is simply sitting still, like a snake on a sun-warmed stone, with a delicious feeling of indolence that was seldom enjoyed in earlier years.
“At such times the older person is completely relaxed.”
But it is also true that activity is needed. It is generally recognized that remaining physically and mentally active is important for physical and mental health. Anyone whose health allows greater activity, but who just sits around constantly, is going to become quite depressed. Such a person can also become less sound physically.
In this regard, Dr. Robert Butler, director of the National Institute on Aging in America, stated:
“Any type of useful activity in which one really feels a sense of accomplishment or of doing something worthwhile can make retirement more meaningful.
“Just imagine if you literally closed up shop and were not doing anything that gave you any sense of purpose or substance. That can be very devastating.”
A woman in her mid-70’s remarked that she could not comprehend why anyone her age with comparable health and finances should have a problem leading an interesting life. The key for her was engaging in a variety of activities. She said of those who were not finding any enjoyment: “Maybe they just don’t have enough varied activities, . . . but I’m having a great time.” She did concede that when her advancing years began to limit her mobility, then she would have to cut down on some of her activities. But not until then.
A Need for People
You may enjoy new hobbies and new activities. And you may also enjoy having more time to be by yourself. But there is no substitute for companionship with people. Solitude thus needs to be balanced with interchange with people.
We were created with a need for people. No one can truly be happy if totally isolated, no matter how much money that one has. Isolating oneself because of age, when one is fit enough to do otherwise, can be very damaging to the mind and spirit, and can actually hasten death. A Bible proverb says: “One isolating himself will seek his own selfish longing; against all practical wisdom he will break forth.” (Prov. 18:1) A case in point was the later life of billionaire Howard Hughes.
One elderly person advised: “Don’t get bugged [bothered] about being lonesome. Just get out.” He meant that one should take the initiative in seeking out people. Similarly, Dr. Constance Freiss of New York advised: “Contact. Contact with people. That is the most important thing [especially] for old people who live alone. I tell my patients to get out every day and talk to someone—even if it’s only the lady at the check-out counter in the supermarket.”
Similarly, Dr. Butler recommended activities that bring one in contact with people. He said of the elderly:
“They can be encouraged to enter into activities in which they help other people. They also can be urged to join social organizations, to become active physically and to develop or sustain friendships.
“People need to be physically fit, personally fit, which means keeping their minds active, and socially fit—maintaining relationships with others.”
Keeping Good Relationships
A key to developing and keeping good relationships with others is to have a wholesome, positive outlook toward them. What can hurt relationships is a person’s not being willing to work at being compatible with others. Some older persons may, for example, not want to listen to the views of others, wanting only to expound their own.
This does not mean that you always have to agree with others regardless of what they say. But there are so many things that are not ‘life or death’ matters; different views can be allowed. Do not become unreasonably unyielding when it does not really matter.
When others see an older person display a mild disposition, with a willingness to listen, they are more prone to want to talk to the individual. As one older man said: “I found that I could get much greater enjoyment out of the company of younger people when I didn’t act like I knew it all, or take offense at differing opinions. Instead, I made sure to ask them their views on things, commending them when they expressed interesting and helpful ideas. By doing this, I also found that often they took a greater interest in me, and time and again asked my opinion, as well as showing interest in my personal experiences from former years.”
Too, some older ones need to fight the impulse to complain when in the company of others. While you may have more to complain about because of the problems that advancing years bring, a spirit of constant complaint can drive others away. On the other hand, “pleasant sayings are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and a healing to the bones.” (Prov. 16:24) ‘You reap what you sow’ is certainly true of human relationships, is it not? (Gal. 6:7, 8) If we are hostile to others, always complaining and in a perpetually sour mood, others will likely avoid us.
It is fine to try to make life more worth while and interesting. Certainly you should. And others can help you to do this. Yet, one hard fact to face is this: No matter how interesting or productive one’s advancing years may be, sooner or later life will cease. At the present time, death takes everybody. That is why the Bible says that “death spread to all men.”—Rom. 5:12.
No matter how delicately we may prefer to put it, human existence today can be compared to a death sentence. The day we are born, we are “sentenced” to old age and death, for they come on relentlessly. How sad that life is so brief and trouble-filled, whereas it can be enjoyed so much where there are good health, security and desirable surroundings!—Job 14:1.
What we really need is something that would accomplish what Ponce de León had in mind when seeking his “Fountain of Youth.” We need a “breakthrough” that would combine the vigor of youth with the wisdom of age.
Yet, another hard fact is this: Even if we had that, there would still not be real happiness if we were surrounded by poverty, inflation, crime, disagreeable neighbors, horrible wars and all the other insecurities of this present system. What we really need is to have that marvelous combination of the vigor of youth and the wisdom of age, but in a world of complete peace and security, surrounded by decent people.
Not Just a Dream
Is such a hope only a dream? No, it is not! Far from being just a dream, it will soon be a reality! But, how can this be when all indications are that the troubles of life are getting worse, not better?
The very worsening events of our time are a clear indication that we live in the era foretold in Bible prophecy that would see the end of this present unsatisfactory system. The calamities that have overtaken our generation since the first world war are visible evidence that this trouble-filled system of things has entered its “last days.”—2 Tim. 3:1-5; Matt. 24:3-12.
What is to follow? “The day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men,” as Bible prophecy puts it. After this cleansing of wickedness from the earth, God will usher in a new order of his making, one in which “righteousness is to dwell.” (2 Pet. 3:7, 13) In that new system established by God, “death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.”—Rev. 21:4.
Therefore, we can now do as Jesus comfortingly said: “Raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near.” (Luke 21:28) When that righteous new order begins, no more will there be the unpleasant effects of aging. Instead, older persons will be restored to the vigor of youth. Even the dead will be raised to have the opportunity to live forever under God’s new system of things. (Acts 24:15) That is why older persons today need not despair. Instead, they can have a grand, sustaining hope for relief from the ravages of old age and death.
In view of the foregoing, those Christian witnesses who are advancing in old age keep active, walking to the homes of the people to make contact with others, getting their views on life’s prospects and telling them about what the Bible says regarding the near future. In this way they get the most out of their later life.