Thoughts and such like.....
Yesterday I read an article about Antonio Banderas and how his new role (Picasso) was a way back into more serious roles now he was entering his third act. He talked of how a heart attack last year has brought about a new respect for his health, but that doesn't mean he wants to live life like he's already dead. "I'm just going to live it, and if I die, I die." (https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/apr/08/antonio-banderas-i-dont-want-to-live-my-life-like-im-already-dead). I wonder how many of us once struck by a serious illness or chronic disease have the same attitude, and how many others decide that this is a sign that they have become 'old', and therefore it is time to stop doing certain things because they're now old. I've known both types of people, and those that seem to have the most fun are those that spend time reflecting on what it is that they want to do, and how they can support those dreams, whether or not they are living with a serious illness.
The Third Act program is based on four pillars: physical, mental, spiritual and financial health - each of these pillars are important as we move forward to embrace this next phase of life. In North America we often only only review whether we have the financial resources to keep us as we retire. I believe we have it backwards. How can we know whether we have sufficient funds to keep us in our retirement if we don't have a plan, or at least an outline, of what we want to do, and how we are ensuring our health will be the best it can be so that we can continue to enjoy life to the fullest. I think we need to start at a place of what next?, go about planning much as we did as teenagers looking at 'what do we want to do with our lives?', asking similar questions, but with less judgement and, of course, more experience. What excites me? What did I dream of as a child/in my twenties, and couldn't do because of.....?, What would I like to achieve, now? Remember, if you are 60 today, you have a 50% chance of living until you're 90+, that's a third of your life - do you want to look back at 85, and say I wish......
Going back to the pillars although they are all interconnected let's take them apart and then, in part five of this series of blogs, we'll connect the dots. Let's start with mental health, as it was part of a conversation I had with friends last week. Today in most cultures there is less shame about admitting to mental health issues, however agism can still be a problem, both in Canada and elsewhere in the World. As people age, health issues, lack of transportation, loss or illness of a partner or spouse, and low income can promote the feeling of aloneness. People may be unaware of opportunities in the community to help them, or they may be too proud to ask for help. As a result many elders may suffer from depression, which may bring shame and then isolation.
Now you may say, not me! But how are you safe guarding yourself? The conversation I had with friends last week centred around one person looking forward to retirement and my question about her social circle - if many of her friends come from her workplace, how can she be certain that that connection will stay strong after her retirement, and what is she putting in place today to ensure she continues developing new friendships, based on common interests and values? Interestingly in a couple of recent surveys, (in the interest of transparency, one was a small one I did), when asked about worries in retirement, no one mentioned mental health, they may have meant it within the response 'health', but I'm not sure many of us think about this aspect of aging.
Health Canada recently put out a report from the Mental Health Commission of Canada (https://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/focus-areas/seniors), which states that over 1.8 Million people 60+ live with mental health problems or illness. Using data from interviews with older people it speaks of the increasing number of older adults with mental health issues, how to approach the subject with them and keep in mind their changing needs. It was mainly targeted at health professionals, but also has a course for the everyday Canadian, to increase the capacity of individuals to recognize and help elders suffering from mental health issues. It also has other initiatives including tips for cities to promote aging friendly initiatives, and a program call Fountain of Health (https://fountainofhealth.ca/), which supports people in changing their own attitude on aging. The program provides resources to improve individual longevity and happiness, how to reduce the possibility of illness as well as steps to support mental and emotional health. If you are a self starter and can hold yourself accountable, this may be all you need to support you in this new journey, however if you are like many of us you may need an accountability partner . This may be your spouse or a friend, or you may wish to hire a coach who can help you initiate new goals and habits and then hold you accountable.
As we age, we must remember that each of us is responsible for our own mental and physical health, and our perspective on aging and how we value and enjoy those years may be one of the most healthy ways we can prepare for our elder years. If you would like more information on the Third Act program, or how I can help you as you plan your retirement years, contact me for a free consultation. Remember, you are in charge of how you live this next third of your life, and there is plenty of life left in you to live!
Maeve O'Byrne's Blog