Remember the song, “What’s It All About Alfie?” Those of us who are Baby Boomers should have some recollection of the famous tune by Burt Bacharach. Now, I never saw the movie or paid attention to the song, but the part of the title, “What’s It All About?” has stayed with me since childhood. As a sexagenarian, I often hear people, if not explicitly, implicitly ask that very question.
About a month ago, I was walking our dogs, and as I was strolling down the street, I ran into a neighbor I had not seen for some time. We greeted each other as neighbors often do. This lovely family man and his wife, who have several children are about my age, give and take two to three years. After asking me what I was doing, I shared that I was quite busy developing new endeavors. He smiled wistfully and told me that I was fortunate enough to be involved in such activities. I got the impression that he might be asking the “What is it all about” question.
Is Sixty The New Forty?
Many Baby Boomers and Gen Xers revel in claiming that sixty is the new forty. With healthier lifestyles, including exercise and better eating habits, this age group embraces all of the things their predecessors would deem inconceivable. At one time, age sixty-five was a death knell. Now, are you kidding? Many see it as a time of freedom to do what they choose and continue working or retiring. Some are indulging in new activities and selecting cosmetic procedures to keep the physical appearance in line with their mental state. Yes, for many Boomers and Xers, life is grand, and the end of life seems far away. Yet, for others, this is not the case.
Frequently, anxiety increases around issues of retirement, and more questions arise.
In other articles, I have discussed the disturbing research around the suicide increase in Baby Boomer women. Sadly, I do not believe this is going to decrease as it has not for older gentlemen. As my lovely neighbor intimated, what indeed is it all about after certain life stages. Unspoken questions begin to emerge in one’s mind as people’s children grow up, some moving away, and the prominent age of sixty-five begins to loom. Frequently, anxiety increases around issues of retirement, and more questions arise. “Do I have enough money? What will I do to fill the time?” Others want to continue working as it provides them a sense of purpose, dignity, and connection. Yet, because of the understated reality of ageism, they fear losing their job or acquiring new employment.
Young People Don’t Forget!
Many young people do not recognize the importance of the questions their older counterparts pose. They should not pooh-pooh this because they will arrive at that pivotal point someday. Also, with the gift of innovation, their lives may extend beyond their wildest dreams. What then? What will they need to do to maintain their sense of purpose and connection? We Boomers can let them worry about that, but they should not forget that many of our discoveries and those before us have paved the way for future generations.
In the meantime, we must continue our quest to answer the question of what it is all about. For those who wish to continue to work, there is a great organization that helps with this. My friend and colleague, Melody Beach, heads several chapters of Fifty Plus Job Seekers in Massachusetts, at www.50plusjobseekers.org. I suspect we will see more such organizations arise over time.
Regarding other questions about these later stages, well, I continue to encourage people to look within and see what they might be missing about themselves. Also, I invite you to check out my Facebook Group, Get UnStuck, Bold, Beautiful U, for older Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. You might get an idea just from listening and observing others, and, as I often state, watch what could happen.
What About You?
What are your thoughts about this epic time in one’s life? Do you wonder about your next chapter? What are your plans? I will leave you with this quote from George Bernard Shaw;
Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.
I believe we should never stop. What says you?