The English romantic poet, William Wordsworth, wrote these simple lines:
“Come grow old with me. The best is yet to be.”
Retirement was once considered a time of slowing down, by mainly sitting down, and doing as close to nothing as possible. In the last few years, all that has changed as retirees search for new ways to grow old. Perhaps as Wordsworth writes, “the best is yet to be.”
To my way of thinking, keeping an open mind is the surest way to an active, rewarding retirement, one in which old assumptions are questioned and hopefully replaced with new ideas. It’s also an opportunity to make new friends with fresh ideas and with political, religious and cultural backgrounds that differ from our own. Instead of watching our horizons shrink, it’s possible to see retirement as the best time to expand one’s horizons.
I must admit that since young adulthood, I’ve pretty well kept to a circle of friends and colleagues whose ideas mirror my own. We agree on most things, political, social and intellectual. We read the same books, the same newspapers and magazines and attend the same theatre and movies. These days we’re even back to watching Saturday Night Live particularly when favourites like Adam Sandler (who left SNL 24 years ago), reappears on Weekend Update with his Opera Man schtick – as hilarious as ever. (Secret reveal: I adore Adam Sandler and purchased tickets to see him in Toronto in June.)
My friends and I were children of the sixties, fresh from the suburbs, looking to shake up the status quo by challenging the social norms of the period. Now that most of us are in our late sixties, as we glance back at how successful our efforts were, there’s two distinct ways of looking at today’s situation. The first could be that we failed miserably. It can be argued, and with good reason, that the world today is a much worse place than it was thirty years ago.
Nasty stuff is happening. Climate change, mass migration, the expanding income gap between rich and poor, and sharper divisions between left and right politicians are only a few references to my biggest concerns about the threat to peace and well-being on our planet.
On the other hand, more people worldwide are rising above extreme poverty than ever before. As bestselling author, Steven Pinker, confirms “thirty years ago 37% of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty. Today that figure is 10%.” In the U.S., 12% of the population lived in poverty while today that figure is 7%.
Canadians are living longer than ever before. In 2018, life expectancy in Canada for men was 80 years and 84 years for women. The majority of retirees own their own homes and for those of us for whom real estate is our greatest financial asset, The Globe and Mail’s, Janet McFarland reported earlier in May that in Toronto home sales rebounded almost 17% last month from a year earlier. Bank of Montreal senior economist, Robert Kavcic, declared that “Toronto’s housing market has found a floor.” Seasonally adjusted, “the Greater Toronto Area market is now at its strongest since the beginning of last year. The market is also stabilizing, as we fully expected,” he added. The average detached house price in the City of Toronto was $1,355,764 in April 2019, while detached prices averaged $914,249 in the 905 region surrounding Toronto.
Canadians have access to full government-sponsored health care. The feds are considering a pharma care plan and in Ontario, a dental plan for older Canadians is on the table. Across the globe, strides in medicine, literacy rates, and the increasing number of girls getting an education are only a few of the signs that demonstrate that conditions for the majority of humans are improving.
It’s information like this that can point us in new directions now that spring is finally here. After a long winter spent watching too much cable news, I’ve decided not to let “breaking news” grind me down. The reporting these days is so bleak that sometimes I feel stuck in a rut of political disillusion mixed with an abiding fear for the future of the planet. But in my heart, I know that’s not the best way for me to look at it. As one friend put it, “It’s not good for us to watch too much cable news.” What’s better for us, and the planet, is that we become involved in something that is meaningful, and has a positive influence on others.
Here are some suggestions:
- 1. If cash flow is an issue or you enjoy business, consider different paths to earning some extra income. It can be anything from sales on the Internet to part-time corporate or consulting work. You can bring a wealth of valued experience to the commercial world.
- 2. Go back to school. Get that degree you’ve always wanted or take a course in a subject that fascinates you. Many universities, including York University and Ryerson in Toronto, and McMaster in Hamilton offer free tuition for Canadians over a certain age.
- 3. Volunteering helps you as much as those you are serving. Find an organization that welcomes your talents.
- 4. Spirituality is what many of us didn’t find in our youth and now might be the time to investigate your connection to the universe.
- 5. Figure out what makes you happy and find activities that keep you and those close to you smiling. In other words, have fun.
As George Bernard Shaw said, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”