Four lessons from my parents to making retirement the richest time of your life.

The past couple of weeks have been very hectic. Both of my parents, in their late 80’s are dealing with complex health issues.  Their lives are changing and the demands on myself and my siblings are ramping up.  We have entered into a new chapter.  It is, however, also a time for sharing, celebrating and learning.

Watching my parents age provides me with the opportunity to see into my future 20 or so years from now.  It is a wonderful time to learn how to age with grace and hope.  I am (re)learning the wonderful lessons of simplicity, perseverance, love and compassion.

As we get older, our lives become simpler.  Our needs become simpler; food, water, rest, sleep… At some point, we will not be able to do the things we used to, or it will take longer and make us tired more quickly.  I watch my parents deal with complexity and need support and guidance to make their lives continue to run simply.  This week, while visiting, the Internet was not working and the router needed to be reset.  The telephone answering machine had stopped taking messages and it needed to be reset. Simple things in one way, but challenging with everything else they are dealing with. Music, a crossword puzzle, a jigsaw puzzle become a day’s occupation.  It is a sense of simplicity that, as younger adults, we forget and miss.  But it will come back to us in the future.

Perseverance. My goodness, perseverance is such a wonderful virtue.  To keep going, to know that you can do it, to accept the challenges of aging bodies with grace and fortitude.  Learning again skills that you have had since childhood.  Redoing things that seemed so easy before.  Life is not easy as you get older, but the virtue of perseverance, of not giving up, of starting again is an inspiration for our future too.

Amongst the day to day challenges, to renew the love spark in your relationship, knowing that this may be your last honeymoon.  To move beyond the day to day petty issues and renew the bond of friendship and love that has existed for so long. It reminds us that life is too short to be petty.  We need to renew the wonder we have for the other, to see again the magic of that person. 

We see the need for compassion. To treat ourselves and each other with understanding and patience. For those of us entering into retirement, watching our parents and learning their lessons can help us live a better life recognizing what is truly important.  The care, compassion and love we share with each other.  These are the gifts of life that cannot be taken away.  They cost nothing to give, but are the true riches of a long and full life.   


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