When my father was 60, he referred to himself as being “middle-aged”. His friend asked him, “How many people do you know who are 120?”
A Life Well Lived
Minnesota Orchestra Conductor Laureate Stanislaw Skrowaczewski was born in Poland 93 years ago. He started playing piano at age 4. He loved playing music until he was injured by a bomb during World War II. He became a conductor in Warsaw and Cleveland before he took over the Minneapolis Symphony in 1960. A few months ago we heard him conduct the Minnesota Orchestra with such gusto that it was hard to believe he was 93 years-old. His love for the music was clear. One non-stop performance was 80 minutes long without using the written score. Last year he conducted in over a dozen countries. So how old was Skrowaczewski? Sadly, he died last month. He fully lived all of his 93 years.
Being Engaged in Life
There are numerous studies that all point to being engaged in something you find worthwhile (for pay or not) significantly improves our happiness and our health. I feel blessed to feel that way about what I do. Most of my “work” gives me energy, even though I am well past what many think is retirement age. See my blog Build your Return on Life (ROL) from 2014 about Mitch Anthony’s book “The New Retirementality” that challenges the concept of a retirement age as a leftover concept from the Industrial Revolution.
How Old Should I Feel?
I do not advocate that people should not retire because I have not done so. There are many people who have sacrificed enormously to build their career and feed their families. They have traveled extensively, or in other ways, sacrificed family time to do work that is not all that satisfying any more. Finding a way to remove from your life what is draining and add things that are nourishing is a wonderful endeavor. I know many who have focused on their grandchildren to recapture what they lost with their own children’s growing years. That is a fabulous opportunity to recover. Others have found the artist inside them during their retirement, like President George W. Bush.
My misconception of how a grandfather should feel is very apparent to me. Looking at the photo of the man looking in the mirror pretty well captures the gap. I feel like the younger man, and the mirror reflects an older man. I expected to feel like the older man in my 70’s, but I don’t… most of the time.
I know many who think their 60’s and 70’s are the best years of their lives. Maybe the 80’s too …. I just have not asked enough people in their 80’s. That was not my expectation when I was in my 30’s. That was not how I saw my grandfather in his 70’s.
Should We Allow More People to Work Longer?
Many would say, “Not on your life!” and others would find community, contribution and maybe purpose, if they were able to continue to work. Warren Buffet continues to make good investments in his 80’s. The Supreme Court is filled with senior citizens. Many cultures honor the wisdom of age more than the US culture.
There are definitely limitations brought on by aging. There are also strengths that build with continued age. I was blessed with a grandmother who was young at heart and willing to share honest wisdom such as, “Those who talk about the ‘good old days’ have bad memories. It was not all good.”
The companies who can overcome unfounded age discrimination and also make adjustments, where appropriate, to work rules will have a competitive advantage in many industries.