My Best Ideas on Aging

An augmented synthesis of my previous writings on the subject.

Posted Jul 12, 2020

Sheila Sund, Flickr, CC 2.0
Source: Sheila Sund, Flickr, CC 2.0

I’ve often written about aging and thought it might be time to offer an augmented synthesis of my core thoughts on the subject.

While you’re still of working age

Use your age to advantage. Your years at the game have taught you things that few newbies have yet learned. Also, you’ve had more time to build a network of people to call on for advice or for help in landing a job.

If you’re looking for work, there are jobs on which age is a plus. A few examples:

  • Fundraiser: It normally takes decades to acquire sufficient wealth to afford major donations. Plus, older people may prefer to donate to a gray-haired solicitor. And amid the economic shutdown, many nonprofits, like companies, are especially eager to bring in more bucks. So the job market for fundraisers might be good.
  • Big-ticket sales: Fundraising's for-profit analogue is salesperson. Older people may be welcome as a salesperson of expensive items such as luxury cars, life insurance, and senior housing.
  • Any areas that serve an older clientele: The obvious example is a senior living community, as an activities director, waiter, office manager, etc. But there are other examples: durable medical equipment, estate planning and administration, the funeral industry, and luxury travel, which, like many fields, is impeded at least temporarily because of COVID-19. Also, you may be less subject to age discrimination in government or in long-standing corporations rather than, for example, start-ups.

If you have accumulated significant savings, you may have the luxury of looking for work you'd find especially rewarding, even if lower-paid or volunteer. It's hard to break the habit of expecting good income, but if you can afford it, you may derive more net benefit because you'll have a wider choice of options.

Even if you’re a low-level employee, you’ve learned a lot over your lifetime. If appropriate, brand yourself as a wise elder, offering to mentor people (who needn't necessarily be young) within or outside your workplace. And it needn't be that direct. In meetings, you might say things like, "I ran into a similar situation a while back, and what worked was X."

In retirement

As we age, we're increasingly subject to aches and pains and perhaps worse. While some people benefit from talking about that, a number of my clients and friends have benefited more from denial and distraction—staying busy, especially in helping others. After my dad retired (at 82), he, who enjoyed driving, would drive older people to their medical appointments and to my parents' apartment for parties. Also, he'd deliver friends the tomatoes he had grown in the backyard. He was planting his next dozen tomato plants when he had his fatal stroke at 86.

You may have a quite old parent who is declining mentally and/or physically. Conventional expectation is for you to spend considerable time with that person, restraining your impatience, perhaps with guilt as a motivator. It may help to recognize that your aged parent is a different person now—hence the term "second childhood." Of course, it's a personal decision as to how much time, effort, and money to spend on a parent in their final years. I’ll just ask that rather than succumb to undue external pressure, do what you think is wise.

More broadly, is it not time now to afford yourself more freedom from conventional expectations? As a child and teen, you may have succumbed to peer pressure to fit in. Even as an adult, you might, for example, spend to keep up with the Joneses or force yourself to mouth support for The Orthodoxy's positions. But might your awareness of the hourglass's sands dropping, seemingly ever faster, make you want to be less subject to peer pressure and even be iconoclastic. For example, many retired people love travel, time with the grandkids, social get-togethers, dancing, arts, and crafts.

The question is how do you want to spend your remaining time? For example, I’m inspired by Isaac Asimov’s answer when he was asked, "You've published 450 books. If you had six months to live, what would you do?” His response: “Type faster.”

I read this aloud on YouTube.