I recently came across a 2015 article about aging and self-empowerment. Paul Irving, the author of the article was arguing that “standing up to negative age bias can be a powerful first step toward having a fulfilling and productive Third Chapter of Life.”
It is important that we recognize and work to counter negative attitudes about aging in the workplace and in our communities. Negative attitudes about aging can create roadblocks in the workplace and in communities. Even more challenging is that once we start picking up on negative attitudes about our age, we are more likely to internalize those attitudes. As we internalize negative attitudes about our aging process, we are more likely to experience poor self-esteem and health issues.
Irving suggests self-empowerment is one way to effectively respond to age bias. He briefly touches on three approaches for self-empowerment: preparation, lifelong learning, and work. Elaborating on these three areas, I would add that these same strategies can expand our horizons and enhance our lives.
Preparation for Our Next Chapter
Even if you do not believe age-bias will be an issue for you, preparing for our “Third Chapter” is something we all can and should do. For some of us, that next chapter starts after we leave our fulltime job of career. For others, it might start when we reach a certain age or point in our life when we realize that our life is starting to change.
As we start anticipating a new phase of our life, Irving reminds us to start exploring options through reading, talking to others, and reaching out to our network. He also suggests staying healthy.
I had planned to retire when I reached sixty-seven. Three years prior to that point, I started reading everything I could about what to expect and how to prepare. I hadn’t thought about how I wanted to use my time, how I was going to deal with some inevitable physical changes, or how I was going to adjust to my new status as a ‘retired’ person.
With regard to health, that is also an area where preparation can make a difference in how empowered we feel as we age. I’ve heard people say that once they retire, they’ll start taking care of themselves. In reality, if we don’t take care of ourselves when we are younger, we may end up having to deal with some serious health issues when we are older.
When I was about sixty, I noticed that I was starting to have some problems with my balance. The first time I noticed it, I was out jogging. I thought I had just tripped – no big deal. But then I kept falling. As we get older, falls can put us at risk of broken bones or even death. I started working on my balance before the problem got serious – I chose not to wait until it was too late.
Irving said that “whether learning takes place on campus or online, it stimulates, engages, and empowers. It provides an opportunity for intergenerational connection that is beneficial for older adults and young people they mentor.”
I believe there are additional, less formal ways to continue learning as well. Joining a skill-development group like Toastmasters is one way to keep learning and to connect with others. Joining an informal writer’s group or groups like The League of Women Voters can also help us grow and develop connections.
Working with Purpose
When Social Security was first approved, the average person didn’t live long enough to collect benefits—or at least for very long. Now we have the potential to live two or three decades beyond the traditional retirement age. Because of our new lease on life, it is time to rethink our view of working.
Irving briefly mentions the benefits of working including better health and financial stability. An article from Money Crashers discusses some of the health, financial, and other benefits of working after retirement. Whether full or part-time, whether working for someone else or working for ourselves, keeping engaged and connected to other people can give us a sense of purpose and provide some additional income as well.
Because age discrimination is a well-documented problem in many workplaces today, it can be difficult for individuals over 50 to keep their jobs or to find new ones. A new job board and resume service have just been created that specifically serves job seekers over 50. This service matches seekers with companies interested in hiring workers 50+ for full, part-time, or contract work. For more information, go to www.JobSearch50.com
Some of us choose to create our own work after retiring. While I did enjoy teaching for several years, I was ready to try something new by the time I retired. One of the best resources I found for starting a small business is the Small Business Development Center. These community-based centers offer free guidance and low-cost classes. Even though my own focus is not on making money, I have learned some new things about small businesses, have been able to keep connected with others, and I have a sense of purpose.
Are you ready to enjoy your Third Chapter to the fullest? If not, it’s time to create your road map and start planning toward an exciting destination!