This is a continuation of my last post. Worldwide, people are living longer and more are living into their nineties and beyond than at any other time before.
In my small family, my father died a few months close to his 90th birthday, his young sister died at 104, their niece celebrated 100 years last October and my mother is close to her 90th birthday. Since she retired as a senior midwife in 1994, she had taken up mixed farming. In the last two years, the chronic degenerative arthritis has increasingly slowed her down.
My father and his sister had agile minds and were relatively mobile. I usually find their centurion niece planting sweet potato vines or digging in her banana garden and no one can stop her for this is what she enjoys doing. Her joy is her strength. The common traits among them is that they chose to focus on what was going right in their lives and engaged fully with what was going on around them. They could be generous to a fault too.
Warren Edward Buffett, the most successful investor in the world, the billionaire who has been giving away the majority of his wealth to charity annually since 2006, celebrated 90 years on 30th August 2020. He shows no signs of slowing down.
Now that we are living longer, it demands that we enlarge the boundaries of vital living.
This has already caught on in the advertisement field and in the slogans we see these days like:
Life begins at 60
and 90 is the new 60. They are aimed at pushing us to think about life beyond midlife, 45-65 and plan for our Second Adulthood if we are to get the most out of it.
Numerous studies and surveys about longevity have been done and continue up to today. Results from such studies have divided Adulthood into two stages: 1St Adulthood and Second Adulthood. The second Adulthood itself has two phases.
. The 1 st Adulthood- this is the time from 30 to 45 years of age.
Generally the body is at its best. We feel young, energetic and consider the world to be at our feet. We have learned to be strong enough to take on life’s challenges and responsibilities so as to make a difference in the world. It is our time to compete, assert ourselves and collect achievements. We immerse ourselves in proving our ability and capacity to ourselves and others.
The sex roles as predetermined by our culture, demand that the women get married and become mothers while the men marry and become fathers. This is a very demanding time for the women in particular who have to juggle a career and a young family. They are so busy bringing up children, meeting financial responsibilities of a family and trying to make ends meet while at the same time building a career.
Dennis P. Kimbro said : “ Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.
. The 2nd Adulthood.
45-65- sometimes called the middle years and the first phase of the 2nd Adulthood.
45 represents the old age of youth while 50 ushers in the youth of the 2nd childhood.
This is usually the stage of greatest well-being in the lives of most healthy people. The competing, struggling and achieving is pushed aside to make space for finding your authentic sense of self- your core values, what you hold sacred and what puts spirit into your life.
You redefine personal success, take inventory of personal strengths and skills and use them to reinvent yourself. You want to remain relevant, useful to yourself and others and you want to be more and do more. Once you get this awakening , you begin to find ways of expressing your authentic self. You begin by letting go of the belief system that has informed you as you built your first identity. Other changes have to be made too in your career, lifestyle, habits and religious commitment. This is usually called the mid-life crisis. The main purpose is to make the next two or three decades your own.
By the age of 65, we have given our gifts to the world. We have served, we have accepted leadership in our families, communities and work places. We have launched our children , have a lot of time to ourselves which we can invest into expressing our authentic self.
In Uganda , the retirement age in the formal sector is 55 years of age and if one is to live to be ninety, then you have another thirty five years to go. You cannot therefore just go on leading your life as you always have. It has gone stale or feels confining or empty. Yes, the environment we live in controls us but the yearning for something beyond family, your job or your friends forces you to trust yourself and open up and grow.
You leave the familiar to experience the unfamiliar. Most times it is a risk worth taking. My childhood best friend, a lawyer by profession and among the first graduates of Makerere University Business School, is now a well established dairy farmer and another friend previously a teacher is an Events Organiser. I am also getting daily awakenings through my creative writing. Doing what we love and enjoying it keeps us young at heart and we just keep growing.
65-85 or beyond- this is the 2nd phase of the 2nd Adulthood. Also known as late Adulthood or the age of Integrity. All that you have lived through and learned adds up to gift you with grace and generosity that ushers you into the age of Integrity.
You recognise your accumulated skills and inner strength and feel that you should use them to teach, mentor or sponsor the young generation. If you made good use of the mid-life transformation, it will be extremely easy for you to create a new life for yourself. Failing to do this or just leaving yourself to rest on the laurels will turn you into the walking dead- a cause of accelerated aging. You need to stay alive, active, productive and creative to be healthy.
Some studies have shown that repeated creative daily routines like emotional writing, pottery, gardening and painting boost the body’s immune response. Getting absorbed into something creative increases the number of cells that fight off infections and cancer cells in our bodies and stimulates the release of Dopamine – one of the feel- good chemicals from the brain. The excitement of getting a result at the end of the task releases the Dopamine.
You can start all over again by simply embracing your mortality and rediscovering the enthusiasm, creativity and adventurous spirit of your youth. Therein lies your power because the possibilities and rewards are usually beyond what you have experienced before.
As you go along this new path, you drop what no longer serves you and you pick what serves your new growth. Mistakes will be made but who cares, just keep moving forward into the unknown.
After all they say: “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.”
With the numerous technology innovations available to us, Mars is now the limit.
Just open yourself to new and more meaningful ways to be alive and do not forget to reach out and connect with others.
My octogenarian mother tells me that one of her biggest challenge at her age is losing loved ones and peers but she has tried to fight this by accepting her own mortality. At the same time she says that such deaths put her under the pressure of longevity and push her to do what she has to do for each day faster. She has also developed a sense of radical thankfulness that drives her to celebrate life every day.
Those who live beyond 90 have the following characteristics in common:
- Adaptability- at 90, they have all of them suffered big losses and setbacks but they mourn the losses and move on.
- Optimism- they look at life as an adventure and are willing to explore. They also have a marked sense of humour.
- They have a keen interest in current events.
- They have a good memory and would do what it takes to retain it.
- They take good care of their health- enjoying exercises and regular sleep of 6-7 hours during the night.
- They are religious- many have found their right place in a universe put together by a Creator.They all know too well that time is running out but they choose to focus on the present; savouring each moment. Time has gifted them with clarity about what they can control and what they cannot. They live fully for one day at a time. This reduces the stress in their lives
But all these are things we should try to pick up as early as our 40th birthday.
All in all, we are in it for the long haul and if we are to harvest the rewards, we have to start planning for it in our youth.
Jim Rohn said: “You must take personal responsibility; you cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, the wind, but you can change yourself.”
How have you planned to get the most out of the next phase of your life?