If you’ve gotten beaten up in your first nine rounds, it can be tough to come out for round ten. But even if you’ve won most of life’s bouts, as we reach our life’s Round 10, it can be tempting to stay in your corner. After all, with age, we all eventually decline.
We may be more motivated to give it one good last try, and perhaps achieving your life's biggest win, if we remember that age may confer advantages:
Leadership. Former New York Times workplace columnist Marci Alboher, in a recent commencement speech to a group of older graduates said, “It’s no accident that heads of state and the hallways of Congress are filled with people over 60. As we age, our ability to lead, to synthesize ideas, gets stronger.”
More knowledge. The longer you’ve been around, the more time you’ve had to gain knowledge and experience. So you’re more likely to say things like, “Oh, I’ve seen that problem before. Here’s what fixed it.” So, could you consult on something, for pay or as a volunteer?
Wiser prioritization. That which seemed so important when you were younger, you now correctly realize isn’t–whether it’s that space between your teeth, that sales quota, or that your butt bears a designer label. What matters most is contribution.
Perspective. A client gets angry at a psychologist, a reader at a writer, a customer at a clerk. Age may provide more perspective on if and how to respond.
Circumspection. When young, many people fervently argue about third-rail issues: politics, religion, race, gender, and disability. When they get older, they have the database of experience to realize that, especially if your view is politically out-of-step with the zeitgeist, you’ll likely accrue more enmity than changing of mind. That old admonition, “Never talk politics or religion,” while too broadbrush, often begins to make sense as one gets older.
Listening and empathy. Alboher said, “With age comes a greater ability to listen and hear others’ concerns. That’s why people in midlife make wonderful coaches, social workers, counselors, mentors and advisers. I stopped counting the number of people who’ve told me they’d never want to see a therapist who’s under 40.”
Older people may be particularly good at empathizing with older people’s issues, for example, physical and/or mental decline.
So, professionally or personally, should you have deeper engagements with people?
They may finally listen. True, some younger people dismiss elders as irrelevant or dotty. But at least some people are more likely to give your words more consideration, recognizing that you’ve had more time to learn or out of intrinsic respect for elders. At least, they’re listening.
Applying the above to your worklife
If you're burning out on your job, could you tweak it to accentuate one or more of those senior strengths? And if you're looking for work, should you hightlight those in your resume, cover letter, and interview? And just maybe, should you take on the project of a lifetime?
A silver lining
It’s pollyannish to assert that one’s last years are “the golden years.” This article’s purpose is merely to point out that they may have a silver lining.
Marty Nemko was named “The Bay Area’s Best Career Coach” by the San Francisco Bay Guardian and he enjoys a 96 percent client-satisfaction rate. In addition to his articles here on PsychologyToday.com, many more of Marty Nemko's writings are archived on www.martynemko.com. Of Nemko's seven books, the most relevant to readers of this blog is How to Do Life: What They Didn’t Teach You in School. His bio is on Wikipedia.