Oscar was in the office for his regular check-up. Fortunately he had a form of chronic leukemia that required no treatment for now. His challenge was his recent retirement: “I’m finished at the accounting firm I established. I don’t know what to do. I’m ready for anything–at least I think I am.”
Retirement can be years of potential: extending what we have already done or redirecting us into new possibilities. We may not have the vigor of our earlier years but we can compensate in many ways to be productive and creative. The renowned pianist Arthur Rubinstein said he adjusted for age-induced declines in his skills by selecting a more limited repertoire, optimizing his performance by extra practice, and altering the tempo somewhat. Others need or want to change to something new such as Martha Graham the great dancer who became a choreographer when she could not dance any longer.
Because of Oscar’s familiarity with the Old Testament, I offered him as encouragement an example of someone who made a substantial life change in his latter years. Abram, who lived 4000 years ago, was a wealthy businessman living in the city of Ur of the Chaldeans in present day Iraq. Located on the crossroad of the major trade route of the ancient world, Ur was a busy business hub with a vast library and extensive schools. Abram, secure and comfortable at age seventy-five “with “possessions he had accumulated and people he had acquired” (Genesis 11:5), received a call from God: “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you (Genesis 12:1).” What? Abram was asked to give up a thriving and stimulating urban environment for Canaan, a desolate, primitive hardscrabble land 800 miles to the west, without any cities or culture. He would have to travel by camels and live in tents—possibly for the rest of his life. He would leave his extended family and even change his name to Abraham!
Yet Abram set out for Canaan and embarked on three new areas of activities when he arrived. He became a successful livestock owner and seller of tents, a military leader, and a believer who served the Lord Almighty. Abram stepped out in faith in his senior years leaving his former life and embraced these new changes. God showed him he was to make Abram into a great nation: “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12: 2-3).”
Just as Abram had abilities and aptitudes that could be channeled into new areas, so does Oscar with managerial and entrepreneurial skills that could be reset in his senior years in different fields. “My son-in-law has bought some land locally and has been talking about building an affordable housing development. I could help him with the management side of the project. I’d also like to give something back to the community, providing home ownership for people with limited means.”
We may not be able to pursue the roles and passions of our earlier years and our physical and mental health may limit us in time, but we can pursue something new that can be exciting and rewarding in our senior years. As Oscar was leaving the office he quipped: “Keep me going, doc. You’ve convinced me I’ve still got a lot I can do.”