When my 87-year old client lost his wife to Alzheimer’s, I had been encouraging him to continue to do the things he loves. Reluctantly, he followed my advice. He is a physician who built health systems in third world countries. He continues to consult, is a major player on a board of a well- known institution in Israel and visits as per his participation. After his wife’s death, everything was in place for him to continue this meaningful work. He stays busy doing the things that define his identity, using the skills and knowledge that he has accumulated over a lifetime of work and experience.
Another client had been a major fund raiser for a museum in Philadelphia. After her husband died from Alzheimer’s, I connected her with the Alzheimer’s Association. Her affiliation with them has made a major difference in their contacts and her advice has contributed greatly to their cause.
Americans are living longer than ever before. For active, engaged seniors, there is plenty of life left to live and plenty to contribute after the age of 65! Finding meaningful work can be the key to shaking negative expectations about aging and what the next phase of your life is supposed to look like.
This is the time to do what you love and love what you do. Think about your career and life experience, hobbies, interests, passions…where do they intersect? Consult, contribute to a professional association, act as a mentor, join a board or organization where your experience, expertise and enthusiasm can be utilized. Seek out meaningful work that aligns with your skills, talents and interests; in return you’ll reap the benefits:
Maintaining Your Identity & Relevance
After spending most of your life in the workforce, it’s no wonder that many retirees struggle with post career identity. So much of your life experience, both social and professional, can be wrapped up in your career identity. Without that structured career path, some may doubt their purpose, direction and self worth. Taking a leadership role as a consultant, volunteer or mentor can be an incredibly rewarding experience. It affords you the opportunity to learn new skills, gain insight into others viewpoints, have meaningful interactions with others with people of all ages and help to advance the work of an individual or organization. You have something unique to contribute. This work is something that belongs to you.
The process of aging can contribute to a negative mindset. Failing health, passing of friends and peers, loss of independence, isolation, depression….it can be difficult to manage the accompanying emotions. When you have too much time on your hands, you can spend much of that time fixating on the negatives. Keeping busy, doing work you love, is a great way to keep your mind from spiraling downward. Seek out opportunities to contribute projects or causes that you are passionate about. Your ability to make an impact will foster a positive, healthy attitude about where you fit in.
Working With Others
The opportunity to work with others, people of all ages, expertise and background, in a collaborative environment, towards a common goal…can be energizing! Interact socially. Learn new skills. Embrace differing viewpoints. Collaborate. Make meaningful contributions. Your skills and knowledge can provide a unique perspective that will be respected and appreciated.
Using Your Acquired Skills, Wisdom and Experience
Whether you are contributing your personal experience or professional expertise, you have something to offer the world around you. Think about your skill set. In what situations do you really excel? What unique knowledge can you offer your community, business or organization? Your skills and experience are valuable.
Keeping Your Mind Sharp
Meaningful work can activate strategic thinking and creativity. Your participation will help to stimulate the brain as you learn new skills and interact socially with others. This keeps the wheels moving, neurons in the brain firing!
Everyone who is mentally intact can (and should) contribute to the world based upon their acquired skills and wisdom. What kind of work you find meaningful is up to you. Regardless of whether you continue to work in your career industry, volunteer with a deserving non-profit or dedicate your time helping your family or friends…do it because you love it, it contributes to healthy aging and it gives you purpose.
Beverly Bernstein Joie is the founder and president of Complete Care Strategies, a senior care management company serving Philadelphia and its surrounding communities. A Certified Aging Life Care Manager with more than 20 years of experience, Beverly has worked in senior care since 1994, both in assisted living communities and in private practice. She is a member of the Aging Life Care Association and was a former president of the Philadelphia Chapter.
Complete Care Strategies consists of care managers, specialized human service professionals, who advocate and direct the care of seniors and others facing ongoing health challenges. Working with families, its expertise provides the answers at a time of uncertainty. Along with its licensed home care division, it can help clients safely remain at home under the watchful eye of skilled professionals. Families are afforded an integrated model of care that with guidance and advocacy, lead them to the actions and decisions that ensure quality care and an optimal life for those they love.