02 Dec Happiness as you age – the role of meaning and purpose
In 2015 the Human Rights Commission published a report into age discrimination emphasising, among other things, that the majority of people’s opinions and the majority of references to older people in the media were predominately negative
Unfortunately, related to this, most of us think of ageing in terms of losses and deficits; and this includes the concept of retirement which for many people is something that generates anxiety and fear.
When reviewing and interpreting these findings for a book I published a few years ago (Live Happier, Live Longer: a guide to positive ageing – Allen & Unwin, 2014) I was struck by two aspects of these findings. Firstly, that the perceptions of ageing and of older people seemed to be extremely derogatory and unhelpful; and secondly, that they didn’t seem to correlate with other findings I’d started to read and review which in contrast, indicated that for the majority of people there were many positive aspects to the ageing process.
In fact, a considerable number of studies indicated that older people were more comfortable with themselves and happier; were relatively healthy and had minimal if any physical limitations; enjoyed a wide range of social and recreational activities and rated their quality of life extremely highly.
It should be noted that there was a subset of older Australians who suffered psychological and physical ailments, as well as some who felt lonely and isolated and described other problems but, and this is important to note, they were by far in the way in the minority.
So what differentiated those who were faring well compared to those who weren’t?
In short, they were far better prepared for this stage of their lives than those who were not doing well. Like any other area of life, those who’d planned and taken action to ensure their latter years and retirement were fulfilling and satisfying were, not surprisingly, happier and healthier.
All of which has been summed up in a relatively new word that’s increasingly being used to motivate and inspire people in their middle age years which is “Protirement”. Protirement puts retirement in a positive light; Protirement is a reconsideration of the definition of retirement and one that includes maximum fulfillment and satisfaction.
It’s my belief that we should all aim for Protirement and that we should start working towards ensuring it becomes a reality as early as possible. Many people plan financially for their retirement, via saving and wealth creation strategies, which is very important; but it’s probably not enough. Because if you don’t have your health they you don’t really have any wealth (or you won’t be able to enjoy it, anyway).
So in addition to having your finances in order start thinking about and start working towards the following life goals:
- What activities you can continue to engage in that will bring pleasure and satisfaction
- What you need to do to ensure you have the physical health you’ll need to live the life you want to live
- With whom you can and will enjoy these activities
- How you can stay focused more on what you have and less on what you might not have any longer, and
- In what areas can you start to “give back” with a view to leaving the legacy you’d like to leave
It’s often been said that failing to plan is planning to fail; if you don’t want to “fail” in your older age but instead, want to enjoy happiness and a great life then start planning now!
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