DYNAMIC AGING

Tomorrow I begin a course, Dynamic Aging, at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Furman University. The program, developed by Dudley Tower, PH.D, is the first of its kind. Additionally, this is the first time it is being taught by Dr. Tower so those of us taking the class are brave souls indeed. And, after reading some of the literature on Tower’s website (www.dynamicaginginstitute.com), I’m thinking that’s exactly what he is looking for in his students…people willing to take a risk, a chance, a bold step into a different type of future than the one most retirees ultimately end up with. During the past nearly two years, I’ve written numerous posts about the need to move out of your comfort zone in order to achieve a rewarding retirement (see “Comfort Zone”, “Ch-Ch-Changes”, “Living Bolder”) so when I came across this course offering, I was both intrigued and delighted. Finally, after reading way too many articles suggesting actions like involving your children in your finances and medical conditions in your sixties (as you would soon slip into a declining cognitive state rendering you incapable of understanding those items), here was someone, not only thinking along the same lines I was, but, willing to teach me how to actualize it!

In April 2013, I wrote, “bold living begins right after leaving the comfort zone”. Yet, most people enter retirement with the idea of continuing with their same hobbies maybe adding some travel or, for those wanting extended travel, an RV. Several much, much older people advised me to do everything I really ever wanted to do right after retiring because as I aged, it would be “too late” as I would decline physically and mentally to the point of not being capable of doing anything requiring any effort. Sounds like they read some of the same articles I read. The only difference is they believed what was being peddled in those articles. Scary as it is, that dreary bit of advice and those articles, in a nutshell, is our society’s current view of retirement. We will maintain as well as possible but inevitably slowly decline to a point where we can no longer function independently needing our children’s intervention or an assisted living community or (shud-d-d-der) a nursing home. I believe this view results in a self-fulfilling prophecy as our minds create a reality we believe to be true. Prior to retiring, I heard of one couple, retiring at 60, who bought a home in a “senior” community and, even though neither golfed, anted up for a golf cart to drive from one home to the other as well as the clubhouse where the residents could play cards, pool or party. Just shoot me, now!

The view of a leisurely retirement where we slowly decline into oblivion is nothing more than mindset. For example, when we retired, an item on Martin’s bucket list was to participate in the state time trials for bicycling (see my post “Second Fastest Old Man in the State”). Never having the time to put in the practice miles while working, retirement meant he finally had the time to invest. As he started biking 100 miles or more a week with thousands of feet of climbing, we began hearing comments like, “Don’t over-do it. You’re getting old. Your body can’t take that kind of a workout anymore.” Well, his body did take it. He received a silver medal for his efforts. And, he’s still cranking out 80 to a 100 miles a week with his times getting better and better. Last spring, during a routine physical, Martin’s much younger doctor told him he was intimidated by Martin’s fitness. While I’m not in as great a shape as my husband, I still hit our jungle of a woods on a regular basis chainsaw in hand and have had my share of naysayers telling me I should “slow down” or how that’s dangerous work for a woman my age. Ha! That’s dangerous work for anyone at any age but I find it exhilarating and will continue my bush whacking.

According to Tower, “dynamic aging is a unique, systemic, more fully engaged, and proactive approach to one’s own aging process.” There’s a lot to this idea but I believe the one component necessary to a fully engaged, proactive approach is an open mind. Our mindset will determine the unique outcome for each and every one of us as we age. Instead of withdrawing from a rapidly changing world and buying into the notion of decline, turning your mind in such a way as to stay engaged and even welcoming what may come, will provide ongoing mental and physical stimulation. During the last several years, I’ve met many, many people who have not engaged in the technological revolution. Yes, we live in a world where there is an inherent risk in being online or using a debit card at the store. But, there has always been a risk of being robbed on the street. And, frankly, I’d rather have my debit card compromised at a store than have a mugger take my purse at gunpoint. Yet, I’ve met many who will not bank online or use a debit card at a store, carrying cash instead from place to place to pay bills and make purchases. They refuse to make purchases online or engage in social media for fear of someone stealing their identity apparently unaware most identity theft today occurs at the mailbox or trash can at their door step. I believe it is this very mindset, which prevents most people from leaving the comfort zone of our society’s current view of aging and staying fully engaged in life.

The world will continue to change at light speed due to the very technology some choose to avoid. Wishing for the good old days and following the already forged path into a slow decline is a dismal way to spend a couple of decades or more. We are at an age where fear of failure, fear of what others will think of us, fear of making a mistake, fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of any kind should not even be on our radar. During the next year, as I take the Dynamic Aging Program at OLLI Furman, I plan on posting my thoughts on the program so that, you, my readers, may benefit from what I’m learning. My hope is we will both learn some things, which will make our retirement a more meaningful, more exciting, more rewarding time in our lives than we could have imagined.

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18 comments on “DYNAMIC AGING

  1. Kathy ~ Have been retired since February. Besides trying to find a passion, I’m married to a guy who is 11 years my senior and cannot do the fun travel stuff that most retirees do. Yes, it’s upsetting to me, as I’ve worked since I was a young child and finally had the blessings to be able to retire at 63. Do others write about this dilemma? Some days I feel as if after taking care of an ailing mother, now there’s the husband. I can dynamically age all I want, but when there’s a spouse with issues in the mix, all this planning is just a wasted dream.

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  2. Thank you so much for this post! I’m retiring next spring and itching to try something new. Not sure what it will be – our finances will force us to be creative, but I’m ready. My husband, already retired, is slipping into the “old man” role a little too soon for me. Hopefully I can spur him out of that.
    So please – keep up the encouraging words! Can’t wait to hear more about this course!

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  3. Really enjoyed this post! How very interesting that these organisations exist. I imagine that it is due to people rebelling against the stereotype, although there was an amusing article in one of our newspapers about a retiree who just wants to slob out and is overawed by all her friends who are abseiling, mountaineering and taking up martial arts !
    Keep writing…really great stuff

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  4. Sounds so interesting! I’m going to get my mum to read this entry. Wish they have a similar course in Australia. Looking forward to reading more about your course.

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  5. Another thoughtful and thought-provoking post. I’ll admit to being resistant to some technological changes, but not because I’m a Luddite or paranoid about identity theft or afraid of change on principle. Rather, I want to protect some of the “old ways” that I find particularly valuable. My vision of retirement includes embracing a kind of “slow living” (as in the “slow food” movement) that involves taking time to really savor each moment.

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  6. Looking forward to reading your posts and learning from your experiences in this class. I’m being pushed into retirement due to slowing business. Quite frankly it terrifies me as I have no clue what I want to do. All my former hobbies now bore me to distraction. Looking forward to something new and exciting. Bring it on.

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  7. Kathy, I love reading your blog. I’m still working toward retirement but looking forward to that time of life. I’m very technological savy and have made sure of that fact. Life is so rapidily changing and we must all want to grab as much as we can. For those people that want to age rapidly in retirement, I wonder if they are just plain tired from years of stress and working. Who knows?? I plan to enjoy life and have fun. Keep us posted on your new Aging class.

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  8. After a visit with high school buddies in Newton and playing with my friend’s mom who is 98 and long time friend Gloria & her dad who is 94 I’m convinced that in the words of Mary Baker Eddy: “Life & its faculties are not measured by calendars…The measurement of life by solar years robs youth & gives ugliness to age…Let us then shape our views of existence into loveliness, freshness & continuity rather than into age & blight.” Yes, it’s definitely a new approach to retirement/rewirement!

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  9. I agree that retirement is a mindset transition. When we worked, the work was presented to us by a manager and there was always work to do. In retirement we need to find the activities we want to do, as there is no manager to do it for us. I was able to work part time in the beginning of retirement, which really helped me to gradually find activities for the other non work days.

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  10. I will be interested in seeing how your course comes out. I am admittedly a person who chooses a more “laid back retirement style” a low energy one if you will although I travel, have many hobbies and have gone back to school. I have been blessed to have a couple single hobbies that have carried with me for twenty years and they are my thing, although I keep trying a new hobby every month or so.

    I am always amazed at the people who say “But you drive cross country on your travels?? And by yourself??”

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  11. I am interested also. I am coming up on retirement in 2 years, or sooner if I can think my way through my finances (I’m 64). My road bike that I have been riding for 20 years, but less in the last few years, was stolen from my garage a couple weeks ago. Do I get a new one or go onto something else. I’m not a hobby person really, but would so love the freedom to spend my days without the assignments given to me in my current job environment. My questions are, can I live on less, given the time can I become more resourceful than I am now? Can I more actively care for my elderly father instead of fitting him into the space leftover by my work life? I would like to try new and different and be gutsy, even though I do keep hearing (and starting to absorb) the whole winding down to old age message. I sat at a coffee shop tonight alone and had this wild free feeling come on me, the same as I had on the Oregon Coast last weekend. Your blog adds even more glimmers of hope and challenge. Thank you!

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  12. Thanks for the post, Kathy! I’m really looking forward to your sharing what you learn! My husband and I just started on our “Encore Voyage” of early retirement and reinvention, and we truly believe that life at this stage must be about self-examination, discovering new passions and learning and expanding our potential. Thanks for sharing!

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  13. I’m a first-time reader of your blog and wow, Kathy, you really captured my passion to move away from the traditional concept of retirement. As a prior financial advisor, I’ve helped dozens of pre-retires make the leap, but that was focused mostly on the money aspects. Many times I noted their lack of a “life plan” to go along with their financials. With that in mind, my wife and I committed to living without regrets. Because she had always supported my career aspirations (and admittedly, more than a few “adventures”), it was my turn to help her live out her dream. From a young age she wanted to have a shop in the front of a unique building that incorporated the living quarters in the back. In her mind’s eye she saw large windows to be dressed with interesting and fun ideas. Today I write from the 1906 building we purchased after chucking the big-city life and moving to a small town. The move resulted in a dramatic reduction in our expenses while keeping us quite busy with the renovation. After a year of preparation and hard work, she just opened the doors to her gallery, and the large windows have people talking–in good ways. The grin on her face says it all. I’m not saying it’s been easy, but what a wonderful feeling knowing we’re having fun, productive, and contributing to our community. Thanks for helping others keep the focus on enjoying what can and should be the best years.

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  14. Kathy, I’m also a first time reader and am fascinated by the discussion your thoughts allowed. My first attempt at “retirement” was in 2005 and I quickly realized this was much more than having enough money even though outliving the money is still a big concern. The bittersweet comments above tell me your observations are spot on, and unless the deeply personal identity with ones work is changed, the likely outcome is old person syndrome.

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