Story & photo by Liz Marchi
Age brings change. Our energy levels generally decline, we need more sleep, multitasking becomes more challenging, we lose friends and family on a pretty regular basis, wrinkles appear, and time becomes more precious. None of these events precludes us from living full lives or contributing meaningfully at work and in our community. I think we all struggle as we age with choices about how we will live and what we aspire to do. If you don’t have a point of view about aging, your time will slip into oblivion without accomplishing much.
The last 18 months, I have relished being part of a transformative organization for our community, our state and the future of health and wellness, Two Bear Capital. I’m the least technically educated on the team and the oldest by a decade. It’s an experience in vulnerability that is completely new, and it’s taken a lot of self-reflection to muster the courage to be vulnerable, own my deficits and show up. The hope in this journey of self-reflection is the “aha” moment of clarity. Mine has been the realization that we all have gifts. The most important questions to ask are, “Did we use our gifts wisely, are we grateful and generous for the opportunity to share those gifts and are we still giving?”
Retiree is not a word that resonates with me. One reason is that, by design or luck, work has always been much more than employment. (Being a stay-at-home Mom was work but not employment!) Work has been a journey of purpose, learning, curiosity, experimentation, meeting new people, ups and downs and experience. All of these are gifts that we carry until the end of our days. The hard-learned gifts of empathy, compassion, understanding, patience and perspective come from living. I have no intention of packing those away to “retire.”
We live in a country where 16.5% of the population is over 65, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and by 2050 we will reach 22%. In 1950, only 8% of the population was over 65. These numbers point to a compelling need for older Americans to find purpose and use those life gifts to raise up the next generation. We simply cannot afford to squander so much experience and knowledge sitting on the sidelines.
Use your gifts. When we work, volunteer, teach, mentor and engage in giving, we get so much in return.
Liz is fascinated by the various approaches to aging — from denial, to plastic surgery, to running marathons, to depression. Given our current demographics, Liz thinks there is a lot to explore, celebrate and learn from those living and aging in the Flathead Valley. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.