Older age often brings less than flattering descriptors that few baby boomers would like associated with them. Would you want to be called decrepit, feeble, unstable, grumpy, crotchety, absent minded, stuck in the past, or a burden on society? But that is how some people view the elderly, no matter how far from the truth it may be.
But those of us who are part of the aging population have an opportunity to change this misperception. Retirement provides an opportunity to become a source of inspiration to others, even as our hair grays and our memories weaken. When someone interacts with me at age 70, I don't want them to see just an old man. To enlighten others to see beyond my wrinkles, I plan to whenever possible do the following:
Stop complaining. No one wants to listen to someone complain or be known as a complainer. Therefore, I will not lead conversations with what ails me. I will endeavor to focus on positives rather than dwell on negatives.
Listen and hear. When I engage with others I will pay close attention to what they are saying and wait my turn to speak. What others have to say has as much value as anything I may wish to say. While listening I will try to pay attention to the content and feelings behind the words, rather than planning what I will say next. I may not have all the answers, but I can surely give someone my undivided attention and allow them to have their say, instead of automatically jumping in with advice. I will try to remember that just because I am older does not necessarily mean I am wiser.
Do not be judgmental. Yes, I have years of experience and have been through a lot, but that does not give me the right to judge others. I am not living in their shoes and can never know the real story of the life they are living. I will try to remain objective, see things as they really are, and not judge.
Smile. There are many things about getting older that I do not like, but I will not live my retirement life wearing a frown. All I need to do is pick up a newspaper to read about others who have it much worse than me. There is always something in my life that I can smile about, and I will do my best to smile about it.
Be charitable. Charity is not just about giving money but also sharing time and genuinely caring. I will do my best to try to be available to others in need, even if I can give no more than my time and attention.
Be realistic. I am no longer twenty and my behaving as if I were can be an embarrassment to me and those around me. I will try to accept my limitations, but not dwell on them. I may not be able to hit a home run, but I can still stand up at the plate and take my swings.
Live by example. I will try to practice what I preach when it comes to living a good life. Nothing rings more falsely than someone telling others how to live while doing the opposite. I will do my best to follow my own advice.
Dave Bernard is the author of Are You Just Existing and Calling it a Life?, which offers guidelines to discover your personal passion and live a life of purpose. Not yet retired, Dave has begun his due diligence to plan for a fulfilling retirement. With a focus on the non-financial aspects of retiring, he shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only the Beginning.