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Declare Your Independence from Misguided Messages About Aging

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"Work hard, save your money, and when you retire you'll be able to finally enjoy your life."

Bull! Nonsense! No! No way! Nein! Nyet! Aniyo! Iie! Non!

If there was ever a misguided message given to people, this is it. Look at the absurdity of what we are told to believe and follow. You spend 25 or 30 years working in a job that you may or may not enjoy and save your money so that "someday" you can retire. While saving is sound advice, too many people take it to an extreme depriving themselves of life's pleasures so they can squirrel away every extra cent to be enjoyed sometime in the future, which they may or may not ever live to see.

We are then told to put up with all this so we can "enjoy our retirement" which, for many people, who unknowingly bought in to this plan, means living on a meager savings and social security while occupying their time waiting for the mail to come. Is this living? I don't think so.

The very idea of retirement is flawed at its core. For one thing it establishes that a time will come when you are of no monetary value to society and will not be able to earn a living so you better be prepared. The sad truth is that many older citizens, due to the advances of medicine, are outliving their savings and have to rely on family to support them. The US Department of Labor says that, by age 65, ninety three percent of the population requires help from family and loved ones just to make ends meet! I am a big believer in taking care of ones family, however, I also feel that we are all able and entitled to support ourselves.

One of the saddest things I've ever experienced was watching my father, in his twilight years, sit idly waiting for the mail to arrive each day. This was what his life had become.

There are plenty of references and role models for a better way to age.

Harland Sanders, best remembered for starting Kentucky Fried Chicken, now KFC, was 65 years old when he began his business. The story is that, when he looked at his Social Security check of $105 a month, he realized he did not want to try to live on it alone. Until he was fatally stricken with leukemia in 1980 at the age of 90, the Colonel traveled 250,000 miles a year visiting the KFC restaurants around the world.

Ray Kroc, a mixer salesman, met the McDonalds brothers and began his fast food empire when he was well into mid-life. He noted later, "I was 52 years old. I had diabetes and incipient arthritis. I had lost my gall bladder and most of my thyroid gland in earlier campaigns, but I was convinced that the best was ahead of me." Even with his health challenges, he remained active in his business and lived to be 82 and today, there are some 24,500 McDonald's restaurants in 115 countries.

Buckminster Fuller, bankrupt at 32 years of age, went on to receive international recognition for his geodesic dome as he approached 60. And in 1970 he received the Gold Medal award from the American Institute of Architects at age 75. "Bucky" is rumored to have said, "A man doesn't even get good until he's 80!"

Aside from the financial side of the retirement equation, and perhaps more important, is the issue of losing our sense of purpose for living. While our work is certainly not all that defines who we are, it is essential for us to feel that we are making some contribution to society. Feeling as though we are "in the game" and not just sitting on the sidelines, watching life go by.

This became painfully apparent to me while visiting my mother in Melbourne, Florida one Christmas season. I happened to be in a Wal-mart store completing some last minute shopping. As I was about to get in line to pay for my purchase, I noticed an older couple moving in the same direction and motioned for the man to go ahead of me. He looked and said, "No, you go ahead. I'm retired. I have nothing better to do." I vowed, then and there, to never let my life be reduced to a situation where standing in line in a store was the highpoint of my day.

(Excerpt for the forthcoming book by Jim Donovan, "Don't Let an Old Person Move Into Your Body")
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Jim Donovan, is the author of several critically acclaimed self-help books, published in more than 20 countries, an inspiring motivational speaker and life coach. For a bonus gift and subscription to his "Jim's Jems" ezine visit his Web site.
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