Re-Imagining Retirement: Legacy

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I just finished reading Marc Freedman’s new book How to Live Forever: The Enduring Power of Connecting the Generations. Wow! I’ve heard of Marc over the last couple of years, but hadn’t given him any real consideration, ‘cause I doubted his impact, due to him looking so young!! (What makes him an expert?) Well, like they say, “You never know what someone’s story is.” He writes from the experiences he had starting in college of older people who powerfully impacted his life and career. After 30 years of research, he is on a mission to address the “purpose gap” and aligning the talents that brings joy, empowerment and abundance to both young and old — truly re-imagining the Boomers’ retirement years.

We are becoming a nation of more older people than younger ones.

Due to the segmentation of our culture over the last 50 years, the youngers and olders don’t often contribute or impact each other’s lives. Marketing, demographics (remember DINKs: dual income no kids?) and retirement communities keep us separated. And focusing on leaving a legacy is almost extinct!

What a loss! A loss of values, history, life lessons and relationships that add color and depth to our life. Could this be contributing even to our homelessness and teenage suicide rates?!!

The book caused me to reflect that my life doesn’t touch any kids on a regular basis. However, as I’ve been driving the last couple months for Lyft, the first side benefit I realized, was getting a chance to talk with young people. How cool! But I need to do more work on this, believe me.

Segmentation contributes to loneliness which is being described as the single most significant public health issue of our time. What happened to our caring and connecting?

Freedman’s impetus is the potential to make the more-old-than-young world work, for both society and for individuals of all ages. How can we make the most of a much older society? How can I become a master of what matters? To help others overcome the odds; to prove they are vulnerable yet invincible! The multigenerational world holds a key to happiness and fulfillment. He quotes Suzanne Schecker of her experience at the Treehouse Foundation that “an intergenerational community is an amazing experience because you get to live with the entire human development spectrum.”

How we live forever is by passing down our lessons learned, memories, experiences and history with those younger. It seemed my dad’s legacy, as a carpenter, was to build a grandfather clock. If you don’t have grandkids around, maybe your choice could be to write, create art or make music?

I loved his telling of the child care program with a 2.5-year enrollment waiting list located within West Seattle’s Providence Mount St Vincent Intergenerational Learning Center. (See documentary The Growing Season) Then Singapore was inspired to develop their own version of colocated eldercare and childcare facilities!

If the industrial age was about hired hands, the knowledge era is about hired heads. Now the technology revolution is thrusting us into ‘the human’ era of creating value with hired hearts—things that can’t be programmed into software like passion, character and collaborative spirit. Face-to-face contact, humans caring for one another; the alchemy of connection cross generations remind us that love is truly the legacy we leave behind.

I did a better job this Mother’s Day of sending greetings to the mothers in my life and perhaps this book inspired that. Freedman developed many other options for me to be more engaged, to care and connect. www.volunteermatch.org, generationtogeneration.org/  and encorenetwork.org.

— By Sharon Rolph

Sharon Rolph is a 25-plus-year resident of Lynnwood and Edmonds and earned her masters degree in applied behavioral science and bachelor’s degree in administration from City University. Her career includes many years at GTE and Boeing in Everett and Tukwila. She presents What Do I Want to Do in Retirement? Connecting with Purpose in Retirement workshops at senior centers.

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