When we were children, we had to adjust to a variety of classroom environments, new rules, and new restrictions on our personal freedom. As young adults, we had to adjust to the realities of working for a living. Many of us also had to adjust to living with one or more people at some point in our lives. We’ve all spent a lifetime of adjusting to change.
Adjusting to life after 50 is no different in many respects. From our own life experience, we know that sometimes adjustments are frustrating and we don’t want to deal with them.
I’ll confess that after turning 50, I spent about a decade fighting the need to adjust. I thought I finally had everything in my life figured out. I liked my life and wanted nothing else to change. Yet, adjusting is how we—and all species—survive. It’s also how we develop resilience.
A Whole Community Adjusting Together
For the past 15 years, I’ve lived in a mixed-age neighborhood, but the majority in my immediate area are now over sixty as am I. Some of my neighbors are in their seventies, eighties, and beyond.
Within a couple of blocks of my street, we have a pond with a trail around it. Each week, some neighbors and community members gather at the pond to walk together.
Others spend time in the community doing volunteer work. A few people on my block are still working full-time but counting the days until they are finally free to live their lives as they wish.
In my neighborhood, we try to watch out for each other. If someone is going to be gone for a few days, one or more of us are notified so that we can keep an eye on any houses with no one home. If someone needs help with a project or can’t lift something as easily as they once could, there is always someone around to offer a helping hand.
When I take the dog for a walk in the morning, I often run into some of my neighbors who are out getting exercise or taking their dogs for a walk as well. Sometimes we stop and chat for a couple of minutes.
To Live Each Moment to the Fullest, We Have to Be Resilient
Yesterday, I saw one of my neighbors walking his dog but without his wife who almost always accompanies him. I asked where she was. My neighbor said that she was home that morning because their daughter had come for a visit. Then he paused and said that his wife had developed Alzheimer’s. He added that they were trying to do as many meaningful things as they could together while they still had time. My neighbor smiled as he told me that he and his wife were planning a special trip for the coming weekend.
Over the years, I’ve known four people in my neighborhood who fought cancer—a couple lost that battle. Two of my neighbors are currently caring for spouses with dementia. A few others are less steady on their feet. In spite of all kinds of challenges and losses, most of my neighbors have learned to adjust and live meaningful, satisfying lives.
I think part of adjusting to life as we get older is that we have a clearer sense of how finite all of our lives really are. Because we know that time is not limitless, we want to find both meaning and joy in the life we have yet to live. To live each moment to the fullest, we have to be resilient.