My posts on this blog have been concentrating on the joys and concerns of navigating life over 50. I have been thinking about all the ways older people find new meaning and new purpose in their later years. Most of the people I know have been fortunate enough to be relatively well off and have Social Security, pensions or 401K’s that have provided them with a decent income. They are able to take the time to reflect on their current state of life and decide how they want to live. I am fortunate to live in an area where this is the predominant lifestyle that I see.
But it occurred to me recently, and I feel some shame that I didn’t think about this sooner, that many people do not have the luxury of living off any more than Social Security benefits, if that. And we all know that it is harder to find any kind of a job, let alone a well-paying job, after you are 65. Many people keep working as long as they can, or are allowed to by their employer. Some have been devastated physically by serious illness and just try to get through the day. Some have been devastasted financially by illness and will never make up the loss. Even if “cured”, illness can have long lasting effects far beyond the damage done to the body.
So how do these people cope with being older, losing a spouse, struggling to keep a roof over their head? They probably aren’t looking for ways to volunteer or start a new hobby. Or are they? It puts the problem of what to do with your new found time in perspective when you compare it to the problem of what you’re going to eat at the end of the month.
Because jobs for seniors are hard to find, there is a growing trend to encore entrepreneurs, as AARP calls them. Retirees or others forced out of the job market by downsizing, early retirement, or other euphemisms for getting fired, have to dig deep and come up with ways to earn money. I saw a newly unemployed man at a rummage sale who said he was looking for new or like-new things he could sell on ebay or Craig’s List. I’m sure this is a large portion of what drives ebay. All you need are a computer, a camera and lots of time. My sister has become a successful encore entrepreneur after experiencing serious family illness, loss of her job and health insurance. But her success and income did not come overnight. More about her another time.
So what is your experience? I’d like to know what you think about this if you find yourself in the struggling category in your life over 50. Do you still yearn for purpose and hunt for your passion? Or are you just trying to make ends meet? Are you angry or resentful? Did you find a way to move on and live joyfully in spite of the things you have lost? Tell me your story. It may be a story that could belong to any of us in the blink of an eye.
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