Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It's Not All Doom and Gloom

My recent posting on the greying of Klal pointed out that some tough financial decisions need to be made about how monies are going to be expended now to prepare ourselves for what is coming down the road. I stand by the fact that any financial discussions need to include the seniors among us. But we, and I include myself in that group, look at that aging population as a problem to be dealt with rather than seeing something amazing: we are living longer! (See note below)

Amazingly enough the word "retirement" no longer means permanent retirement ie. death. Where once the bulk of a person's life was the time period of work, with only a few years perhaps to do something else, we can now look forward to a life after work. We are going to need to come up with a different term to describe accurately that period that comes after 65 or thereabouts. Calling those years the "retirement years" inaccurately describes what those years might be about. Retirement from work does not mean retirement from life. For now I'd like to call those years after 65 the Possibility Decades.

What would/could you do if you no longer had your job as the organizing factor in your life? What delayed dreams and visions might suddenly seem possible? Some have said that they would travel extensively, finally seeing up close and personal the wonders of the world they live in. Many others talk about finally having the unfettered time to volunteer, whether for charitable organizations or community improvement groups or self-help programs. Others talk about finally getting the chance to get the advanced education they couldn't/didn't get when they were younger. There are as many dreams as there are people who are finally getting a chance to make them come true. And the wonderful part is that those dreams are going to have a chance to move out of the realm of the mind and into the realm of the real.

From a frum perspective the Possibility Decades offer some real benefits. People with experience and skills involved in the organizations of Klal, bringing with them a perspective that only age and living can give you. Overhead slashed to the bare bones for tzedaka organizations as our seniors take on the the jobs we are paying for now, as they tackle the reorganization of tzedakas that desperately need that reorganization. Yeshivas full to the brim with men who finally have the time to sit down and learn. What chidushim might they come up with to the benefit of Klal? Perhaps volunteers in our children's schools as tutors or office help or anywhere they can lend assistance? Imagine a group of retired accountants and financial specialists if they were let loose on solving the fiduciary problems of many of Klal's institutions. Babbi's who can cook and run a household paired with new kallahs, teaching them the basics. Zaydie's with household repair skills passing on their knowledge to new chasonim who need that knowledge. The possibilities are myriad.

But if we are to see the Possibility Decades come to fruition we first have to accept that those decades are a reality, that they are coming and that our seniors are more than entitled to them. We need to stop looking at our seniors as being only mere adjuncts to the generations that followed them, as someone whose only job is to serve the young in the ways that the young want. We need to look at our seniors as separate but equal to all the other generations. And yes, we need to recognize that those seniors are going to have financial needs and have to put away money to meet those needs. The younger generations are going to have to learn to be self-sustaining and self-supporting.

We need to understand the truth of that old saying: "Just because there is snow on the roof doesn't mean that there is no fire in the furnace." Our seniors still have many years of life left to live, and they should be allowed to live them on their own terms, not ours.

Note: The number of people living longer today is growing by leaps and bounds. As of September 20, 2008 there were 79 validated super centenarians living across the globe, 70 females and 9 males, between the ages of 110 and 115. The number of centenarians, those reaching 100 years of age exceeded 150,000 for the first time on April 11, 2008.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. My grandkids couldn't seem to understand what my husband and I could have to be busy with when we both retired last year. My husband's answer to them was that we were finally going to be busy with what we wanted to be doing instead of what we had to be doing. Just this one year has shown us that there is a lot still left for us.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a true assesment. It seems like every generation thinks that it is more important then the other living generations. I also think that sometimes the attitude of the very young is that the older generations have had their turn at living and now it is their turn. As this posting shows, there is still a lot of turn left for the older generations.

Anonymous said...

I think that every generation thinks of itself as being THE most important generation, but the ones in the Boomer generation have been more self sacrificing then the generations that have come after. They seem to be more willing to give up things for others. It's certainly time that they were allowed to concentrate on themselves for a change.