Work It

Some thoughts after reading an article this past month about working until we reach an older age.

As we work through our forties, fifties, and into our sixties, there are some definite advantages that continuing to work affords us.

One, we have established seniority. We have spent decades in the field of our choice, building up cred, establishing relationships, building bridges and alliances with others, and learning how to be successful. Seniority and the goodwill that it brings take time to establish, and should not be given up lightly. Once relinquished, they may not be so easily regained.

Experience is gold. Learning how to do something, the mechanics and the algorithmic nature of the procedure, is important. Even more important is learning the nuances, the finesse moves that separate a technician from an artist or craftsman.

Responsibility is another time honored trait that defines the older, more experience worker. When young, we tend to try to figure out how to save ourselves steps, time and work. When older, we recognize the importance of a job well done, no matter how long it takes or how difficult it is. We stick to it until it is done.

We develop varying degrees of indispensability as we age on the job. We become the go to person, the one who knows, the one that cannot be done without. We have the institutional memories, the comparisons to days gone by and the ability to use the past to fashion a stronger future.

We learn how to multitask and delegate as we age into a job. Instead of trying to do everything ourselves, we learn that enlisting the help of others and breaking a task into multiple pieces often helps things go more smoothy.

As we age and continue to work, we may keep the idea in our head that we want to be “in the room where it happens” for as long as possible. We are involved in the big decisions, the generation of important ideas, and we know that we help to run the shop and the show. It is difficult to decide when it is time to give that up.

If we transition to part time or less, what happens?

We may indeed feel less stress. We have more time. We can do more of what we want to do. Our job satisfaction may actually go up when we have less on our plates. We have the ability to try new things, to explore, to experiment.

But…

Management may look on this new found freedom as decreased commitment to the organization or the job. Availability may be compromised, motivation may be called into question and we may find ourselves cut out of the herd when the big decisions are made.

We may struggle to maintain our relevency.

Things to ponder as I turn sixty two.

Growing Older

I have often heard people say, “I’m getting so much older”, or “I feel so much older!” They lament the aging process and rail against it, as if that is going to stop it in its tracks or make it any easier to get through.

I prefer to think of it as “growing older” and not getting older.

We have a lot of potential for growth as we age. We learn a lot about relationships, money, travel, work, children, grandchildren and a myriad other things almost by default. If we put even a little effort forth, we can maximize these growth areas and enrich our lives many fold. Simply deciding to age gracefully (or not so much!) is an option, but not the best one. Aggressive learning and growing as we age is much better.

A lot of this is based on attitude. When you wake up in the morning, are you glad to be alive? Are you excited about the coming day? Do you relish the challenges ahead and have a plan to attack them with vigor? A positive attitude can go a long way as we try to maintain an upbeat demeanor going into our senior years.

I have to do a certain amount of continuing medical education every year in order to maintain my medical license. Most years I do many more hours above the minimum required to meet the goal. It’s fun to learn new things or just to confirm that I’m on track with what I already do to treat my patients! You know, continuing education is not just for doctors or other licensed professionals. Anyone can continue a learning program, and make it as structured or unstructured as they like, all life long. If you never stop learning , you never stop growing.

As I mentioned above, one can passively accept the fact that aging will occur and do to us what it will, or one can choose to fight back, stay in shape and not go quietly into that good night! This includes staying healthy in mind, body and spirit. I worked my Telepsychiatry job the last three evenings in a row, so when I got off work today I was very excited about getting outside and walking in the heat and sunshine. I am very fortunate to live near a river and in a conservation community, so it is not unusual to encounter wildlife and birds and other creatures on a walk.

It was 97 degrees and humid today, brutal for this time of year, but I changed clothes immediately on arriving home (so I would not chicken out!) and went right out the back door toward the river. I was lucky enough to see a couple of hawks, a giant white egret, a blue heron, came within six feet of a beautiful doe standing in the swamp plants just off the boardwalk ( she didn’t move a muscle and stared me down as I walked quietly past her), and then on the other side of the neighborhood I saw a mother and the cutest tiny little fawn you could ever want to see. Although these beautiful creatures sometimes nip at our new lilies in the middle of the night, I still thrill every time I see them up close. I got back to the house after a three mile walk, overheated and tired, but so pleased that I am able to get out and feel my physical body straining against obsolescence.

If we are going to age gracefully, we must be positive, never stop learning, push ourselves in mind, body and spirit and always choose active growth over passive acceptance of aging.