Lynn, Age 62
Working on my Retirement Project I came across “70candles” and was immediately drawn in, especially by the phrase “The baby boomers are fast on our heals, and want to know what lies ahead.” I’m one of those Baby Boomers, and I have become absolutely fascinated with how we, individually and culturally, respond to aging. Recently retired, age 62, from my final employment career as a RN. I received my B.S. in Nursing at age 55, and have a B.A. in Biology and a M.A. in Theology. I only mention these because they, also have important roles in my world view.
During the last 5 years I worked as a Visiting Nurse in an upstate NY college town. It wasn’t the kind of nursing I thought I’d be doing but I fell in love. I experienced the incredible privilege to be present with patients, and their families and friends, through the process of long- or short-term illnesses, inevitable decline, and death. I have suffered with them though very hard decisions. I have comforted, advocated for, and rejoiced with as well. We were also managing health and decline.
It was this experience that inspired my Retirement Project, and it is this blog that inspired me to write this note. I want to help people be better prepared for, and more thoughtful about, the ramifications of the process of aging and inevitable decline; what can we reasonably expect? and how might our responses and choices affect our families, friends, and/or society?
The bottom line is that we, as a culture, continue to fear dying. Yet, in spite of the vast resources available, including Living Wills, Advanced Directives, Palliative Care, and Hospice only a very small percentage of our population uses even these. We may even have Wills, and Life Insurance but we don’t usually talk about it until there is no other choice. The saddest part is that we have turned the process of dying & death into the most negative thing in our lives, rather than seeing and experiencing it as a wondrous thing to behold. We prepare for births by learning about the process, we go through the process with some reasonable understanding of what to expect, and we celebrate the outcome- the first great event of a person’s life. Should we do no less for the last great event of a person’s life?
I know that this blogspot is dedicated to “Flourishing” and few people might relate talking about the process of decline as an example of “Flourishing,” but I think we have a big opportunity. That’s why I’m reaching out to my sisters engaged in “this Longevity Revolution.” Because if this is “the revolution” what will it look like when so many more Baby Boomers are 70+?
So I’ve been taking informal surveys and pondering about how I can develop this Retirement Project idea. You have a lot of wisdom and experience among you and I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions.