Finding significance in your life after 70

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Ronald Blythe, an English author, once said: “To be old is to be part of a huge and ordinary multitude...The reason why old age was venerated in the past was because it was extraordinary.” (Quoted in “Old Age Is Always 15 Years Older Than I Am”)

We older adults sometimes fuss about younger people who may disrespect older people. I’m not addressing that today. But older people can often disrespect themselves. Don’t do it.

Ronald Blythe’s quote about old age is ironic in a way. Old age used to be respected because not many people lived into old age. Now it is very common. Perhaps some younger people do take those with gray hair and wrinkles for granted.

But we who have that hair-color and wrinkled skin need to do two things: 1) Own the significance we have both inherently and have in our relationships; then 2) Don’t let other persons’ actions determine our significance, our life-meaning, or our purpose.

My first college roommate has remained a life-long friend. He currently doesn’t know his wife or children all the time. He likely wouldn’t know me since we’ve not seen each for two years. But I keep in contact with his wife so she knows I care deeply about them and their family.

His advanced dementia has taken many things away from him. But he still has his dignity as a person, even when his loving wife has to care for his most personal needs.

His memory is very inconsistent, but his wife told me earlier this week that occasionally he “has to go help someone.” He is a retired pastor, as I am. It is in his nature and in his habit to help someone. Intuitively, he knows that’s what he is about. He still has meaning in his life. Yes.

Next Tuesday, May 23, our last Geezer Forum before the summer recess will focus on “significance after 70.” I’ve asked a few folks to come prepared to briefly share why they are living lives of significance, of meaning, of purpose.

One person in his 70s has a life-threatening disease. Three are in their mid-to-high 80s and active in our community and with their families. Every person has life-significance. Those who attend our forum will have time for “table-talk” to give everyone a chance to share (or silently enjoy their own sense of meaning).

We will consider these questions:

• When did you first become aware that you had some significance in your life? Feel free to share that story.

• Was there a time that you felt no-to-little significance in your life? Feel free to share — or not share — some of that story.

• Did you have any positive “after-70” role models in your childhood (or since) that influenced you?

• What kind of daily and/or occasional actions or activities remind you that you still have life-significance?

• What truly matters to you at this time in your life as you look beyond today?

Perhaps these are questions that can serve to remind you of your own life-significance (even if you’re younger than 70).

Please consider joining us at the Geezer Forum, May 23. We meet in the Community Room of Columbia Bank, 2:30-4 p.m. We would be honored by your significant presence.

Paul Graves, M.Div, is lead geezer-in-training at Elder Advocates, a consulting ministry on aging issues. Contact Paul at 208-610-4971 or elderadvocates@nctv.com.

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