Our friend Liz Kitchens of Maitland, Florida, the founder of Be Brave. Lose the Beige, has been thinking about something a lot of us baby boomers think about but the difference is, she might have come up with something useful to help us define our lives. She calls it, My Next To The Last Dog.
A few weeks ago I attended a conference on positive aging. As a Baby Boomer I have an acute interest in what aging looks like in the future. A key theme of the conference was positive and purposeful aging. I kept hearing “60 is the new 40″ (music to my ears since I turned 60 this year).
The speaker, Marc Freedman, CEO of Encore.org., called for a new paradigm on aging. He took issue with statements that say our later lives are just a pale imitation of our earlier lives. He argues against retirement communities where residents are surrounded exclusively by the aged rather than a variety of ages.
I have been struck by the fact that no one has yet managed to concoct a satisfactory label for our post-middle-age years. At the conference, I heard references to “The vintage years” (hated it); “Act 3 or Chapter 3” (not a fan); “the afternoon of our lives” (nah).
Freedman suggested the following: “I’m on my next to the last dog.” Any way we can approach our aging joints and our sense of mortality with humor has great appeal to me. Freedman also suggested a “Gap Year for Grownups.” As the mother of children who took more than a few gap years to find themselves between college and careers, I think a gap year to help us transition to later life and try out new roles is a splendid notion.
Now back to this concept of purposeful aging. Conference speakers emphasized the importance of identifying a purpose in our lives, how older people with a purpose and meaning are 2.4 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. So, how do we go about identifying our purpose for our next to the last dog years? Dr. Victor Strecher of the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health suggests the following exercise:
Identify your core values. For example, which of the following values resonate the most with you: kindness, security, expertise, achievement, spirituality, creativity, vitality, tradition, self-control, responsibility, independence, or enjoyment? Now, write a sentence personalizing these values. For example, here’s mine for vitality: “My health, vigor, and energy are essential in helping me navigate my life.” Once you have written a specific statement for each value, write a paragraph weaving four or five concepts into a Statement of Purpose. It can serve as a guide, helping you make choices about how and where you want to spend your time, energy, and resources.
I would love for you to share your Statements of Purpose below in the comments section below. Happy envisioning.