Aging and Retirement – Regeneration and Dignity

Aging and Retirement

Regeneration and Dignity

 

Chapter 1 Retirement from What?

 

Wisdom

You have worked very hard for many years.

 

As your physical faculties weaken, shouldn’t you be slowing down?

 

Hasn’t the time come to reap the rewards of life?

 

Society’s solution, of course, is retirement.

 

But have we considered the effects of retirement on our spirits?

 

Why are so many of our elderly so unhappy?

 

Why do they experience such emptiness in their lives?

 

All of us, if we are fortunate, will grow old.

 

Should we look toward that time with enthusiasm or with dread?

 

Practice and Theory

 

Before contemplating the later years of your life, you must ask yourself a basic question about life itself.

 

Why am I here?

 

Your attitude toward aging and retirement will depend on how you answer that question.

 

Wisdom

Recognizing the Soul

 

You may believe that the primary objective of life is to take advantage of its material possibilities and live as comfortably as you can.

 

If so, you might think that you will be content to live out your later years in as much comfort as you can afford.

 

You might see the last years of your life as a time to enjoy the just deserts of a long life of labor.

 

But why then, do you often have a nagging feeling of dissatisfaction of spending your days in leisure?

 

Because you were not created to live on earth in a purely material existence; you were put on earth by G-d to refine this material world with truth and virtue.

 

Practice and Theory

Introducing G-dliness into your every moment is your life’s mission and it lasts our entire life.

 

Wisdom

 

If we were to measure life solely in terms of material gain and productivity, then we would inevitably see the physical weakening of old age as a liability.

 

But because man is primarily a spiritual being whose true wealth is measured in intellectual, emotional and spiritual gains, we recognize that the soul is the primary force in life.

 

And the soul, unlike the body, never ages; it only grows.

 

Practice and Theory

 

As one ages, therefore he should not decrease this level of activity, for spiritually he is growing ever stronger.

 

Practice and Theory

 

Unfortunately society has taught us to see success in material terms – to think that a millionaire regardless of his spiritual wealth is somehow superior to a poor man who is truly wise.

 

We must retrain the way we think; to define success in the more sublime terms of ability and competence, wisdom and experience.

 

Because man was created to spiritualize the material world, the only way to reach true happiness is through spiritual growth and achievement.

 

And that means giving to others, loving and sharing.

 

Practice and Theory

 

Recognizing the prominence of your timeless soul.

 

This is the key to understanding the aging process, the key with which we open the door of opportunity in our twilight years.

 

Wisdom

 

Human productivity is a direct result of human creativity, and human creativity is a direct result of the spiritual energies of the soul.

 

Practice and Theory

 

“Every person was created to work” as the sages say.

 

However this energy takes on different forms in our life cycles.

 

So as one ages and his physical strength wanes, his toil and productivity need to be expressed through spiritual achievements.

 

So if a human being reaches a certain age, whether it is fifty-five or sixty-five or seventy-five, and suddenly announces, “I’m going to retire,” the question must be asked “Retire from what?

 

Ambition? Creativity? From your soul?

 

Such an attitude means that you are simply preparing to die, which is unacceptable for a person who comes into this world with a mission to produce.

 

One does not retire from life.

 

Wisdom

 

The argument for retirement is an erroneous one.

 

It assumes that our goal in life is to amass the right amount of wealth so that we can shut down our productivity at a certain age and revel in our material success and free time.

 

We should never abandon the world of work and productivity for a world of inactivity, a world that doesn’t challenge us, a world that isolates us from our spiritual quest.

 

Chapter 2 Where Do Our Attitudes on Aging Come From?

 

Wisdom

Aging – Blessing or Curse

 

Each phase of life, of course, has a unique set of characteristics and needs.

 

That is why we must take great care in educating a child, for his mind is so impressionable;

that is why we must properly channel the fiery spirit of young people, for it is so strong;

that is why we develop careers and raise families during middle ages, because we have by then achieved the necessary blend of maturity and ability.

 

So too does the twilight of our lives have its inherent strength.

 

Sometimes, of course, modern society makes us forget this.

 

Think about how we constantly celebrate the image of youth, how it has come to stand for everything that is energetic and desirable.

 

This has an obvious demoralizing effect on the elderly and by extension on society in general.

 

If we value the physical vitality of youth more than the intelligence and wisdom – more than the spiritual vitality, of an experienced soul, what does that tell us about all our standards?

 

Wisdom

 

So there are two vastly divergent views on aging – that is “You are old and worn out thus useless” versus “You are wise and experienced thus indispensible.”

 

Wisdom

 

The Bible assures us that old age is a virtue and a blessing.

 

Wisdom

 

We are told to respect the elderly regardless of their scholarship and piety.

 

For each year of life yields wisdom and experience that the most accomplished young person cannot possibly yet posses.

 

Wisdom

 

In many societies today old age has come to be a liability.

 

Youth meanwhile is considered the highest credentials in every field from business to government, where a younger generation insists on learning from its own mistakes instead of standing on the shoulders of their elders.

 

Wisdom

 

At fifty a person is considered “over the hill” and is already enduring the insinuations that his job might be better filled by someone twenty five years younger.

 

Wisdom

 

Society, in effect is dictating that ones later years be marked by inactivity and decline.

 

The aged are encouraged to move to retirement villages and nursing homes; after decades of achievements they are thought to be of little use, their knowledge and talent suddenly deemed worthless.

 

Wisdom

 

If a person’s physical strength has waned while his wisdom and insight have grown, do we consider this an improvement or a decline?

 

Wisdom

 

If a person’s priorities in life are material, then the body’s physical weakening means a deterioration of spirit as well – a descent into boredom.

 

But when one regards the body as an accessory to the soul, the very opposite is true.

 

The spiritual growth of old age invigorates the body, and the later years allow us to positively reorder our priorities which is difficult to do during middle age when the quest for material gain is at its peak.

 

Wisdom

 

The idea of retirement is rooted in society’s notion that life is composed of productive and non productive periods.

 

The first twenty or thirty years of life are seen as a time when a person training for a productive life.

 

The next thirty to forty years are when his creative energies are realized; he begins to return what has been invested in him by his now passive elders, and in turn begins investing in the still passive younger generation.

 

Finally, as he enters his later years, he puts his period of “real” achievement behind him.

 

If a creative urge sill strikes, he is advised to find some harmless hobby to fill his time.

 

Indeed, time has become something to be filled. In a sense, he has come full circle to childhood, once again.

 

Wisdom

Every day is purposeful

 

The time to passively enjoy the fruits of one’s labor does indeed have its time and place – in the world to come.

 

Wisdom

 

The very fact that G-d has granted a person a single additional day of bodily life means that he or she has not yet concluded his or her mission in life, that there is still much to achieve in this world.

 

Wisdom

 

A hardworking adult may nostalgically remember childhood as a time of freedom from responsibility and toil.

 

As we grow, however, we disdain such “freedom,” wanting to do something real and creative.

 

Similarly, the promise of a “happy retirement” is a cruel myth. For we know true happiness only when we are creatively contributing to our world.

 

The weakened physical state of old age, therefore, is not a sentence of inactivity, but a challenge to find new, and superior means of achievement.

 

Chapter 3 What Steps Should The Elderly Take For Themselves?

 

Practice and Theory

Transforming a curse into a Blessing

We must always remember that, spiritually, we are all united.

 

The soul of a seventy year old shares the same spiritual space as that of a seven year old or twenty seven year old.

 

And so just as the seven year old must learn that his decisions greatly affect the elderly, the elderly themselves must recognize their role.

 

Practice and Theory

 

That role is not a passive one, in fact the later years of life are filled with opportunities that may have totally escaped our sight until we are upon them.

 

Practice and Theory

 

Just because we stop going to work every day does not mean that we stop using our body and soul to fulfill our G-dly mission.

 

Practice and Theory

 

The same energy that you once spent worrying about your competition or planning your business can now be devoted to projects that you never had time for, projects that shine a light of goodness on those around you.

 

Remember the experience of an older man and woman – whether in business in civic matters or in the home – is priceless.

 

Practice and Theory

 

Even before society begins to appreciate the value of age, the elderly must take their lives into their own hands

 

Practice and Theory

 

The elderly must learn to exercise their own convictions as strongly as modern society exerts its own considerable force.

 

Practice and Theory

 

Do not therefore feel defeated by your age and its physical effects.

 

Do not heed those who say that you are less useful because you are less physically strong than you once were.

 

Do not listen to those who claim that nothing more is expected of you than leisurely walks and playing golf, than spending your days and years doing nothing.

 

Practice and Theory

 

Our twilight years are just what the name implies – the beautiful culmination of a day well spent.

 

In childhood, we peek into an uncertain future, eager to learn, but inexperienced and dependent on others.

 

In the twilight years, we look back at what we have learned, confident and eager to impart this wisdom unto others.

 

Just as you may need a younger person helping hand in your physical life, that person needs your helping hand in his spiritual life.

 

Practice and Theory

 

Retirement, mandatory or otherwise is a fact of modern life.

 

Year after year, it condemns valuable human resources – indeed our most valuable human resources – to a state of stagnation.

 

What is one to do in the face of such human and social tragedy?

 

Should one embark on a campaign to change this practice and the value system behind it, or should one look for the brighter side of retirement?

 

Indeed we must do both:

 

We must change the attitudes of society’s leaders, but we must also change the elderly’s perception of themselves.

 

We must tell them:

 

Not only are you not useless but you are a greater asset to society than ever before.

 

Practice and Theory

 

At the same time:

 

We must exploit the opportunities of retirement.

 

For those men and women seeking to fill their time constructively, let us establish study centers in every community, and let us set up classes and workshops in every nursing home and retirement village.

 

Education like productivity is a lifelong endeavor.

 

Such an intensive pursuit of prayer and study will illuminate the elderly’s self worth and potential, transforming them from cast asides into beacons of light for their families and communities.

 

Indeed if properly utilized, retirement can become one of the most productive periods in a long life.

 

Chapter 4 How Can The Elderly Access The Fire Of Their Young Souls?

 

Practice and Theory

Practical Methods For The Elderly To Access The Fire Of Their Souls

 

We must remember that no matter how weak our bodies may become, the soul still remains strong, constantly yearning for nourishment.

 

You should nourish your soul by setting aside a special time each day to study and pray, to feed your mind and heart.

 

You should also designate time to share your experiences with younger people, and encourage others to do the same.

 

If you are sincere in your effort to communicate, a younger person will recognize the validity of what you have to say, and make a genuine effort to respond.

 

Spend time with your grandchildren and share your life with them.

 

Gently educate them in the priorities of life that only you can impart.

 

Simply love and enjoy them, and allow them to love and enjoy you.

 

Wisdom

Your Soul Heals Your Body

 

More and more medicine is teaching us that our physical health is dependent on our spiritual health.

 

Wisdom

 

Do not succumb to your body’s voice, or to the discouraging voices around you.

 

Remember that age is dignity, that age is wisdom.

 

Physical strength may be ephemeral but good deeds are eternal.

 

And every good deed ultimately affects the entire world.

 

Practice and Theory

Take a New Look

 

It is time to take a new look at the elderly.

 

To take a new look at retirement.

 

To take a new look at the very essence of life.

 

Of all people, it is perhaps the elderly who most need – and who can best teach us all – to lead a meaningful life.

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