I’m working on a new book, tentatively entitled: What Every Senior Man Needs to Know. This is a follow-up to a book I wrote 30 years ago, which Harper published, What Every Man Needs to Know. When the first book came out, I was in my 40s and wrote to men about my age. Now, that I am in my mid-70s, I am writing to men between the ages of 60s and over to live a good life for themselves and for their families.
The new book will contain a list of suggestions for how men can navigate the challenges of aging. I would appreciate any feedback or suggestions that you might have. The best way to provide feedback is to reply directly to this email.
Anything worth achieving requires facing distinct difficulties, experiencing internal and external struggles, and accepting big risks. Just as this was true for work, it is true for the post-career time we are facing. It takes bravery to engage as fully in the fourth quarter of life, as you did in the first three.
Even if you go alone, when you evolve into your senior years, you always go with others. Any activity or adventure will have an impact on your family and friends. As Gerry and the Pacemakers sing, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.
Keep track of the daily abundances of your life. Learn by tracking them: what you value, what you appreciate, and what you do not. Learn to pick future activities based on enhancing your enjoyment and satisfaction with life.
Transitioning to a more senior stage of life gives you the opportunity to rebalance your life. Think about how your life has been out of balance and why. Then think about how you can achieve balance in your life as you go forward.
Develop some type of spiritual practice. It may be a reflection, it may be prayer, maybe deep reading, or journaling. Whatever it is, make it a regular part of your life and note what difference it makes.
Join more group activities. Learn from cultures that recognize the power of community activity. Examples of this may include singing, fitness, reading, and praying. These are all valuable ways to enhance our brain functions.
Develop a new habit of calling or texting a friend every week. When we were young, we had many friends. When we got into our work life, we had less time for friends and spent more time with family and work colleagues. Having friends in the senior part of life can be satisfying and even healthy.
Reach out to friends but recognize it is much less likely that they will reach back out to you or even respond to your invitations. Do not take this as rejection but as confirmation that men in general have trouble reaching out to other men. Do not let their lack of responsiveness stop you from reaching out to other men. You’ll eventually find someone who will respond.
You may have spent many years avoiding conflict. Now is the time in life to let people know when they have hurt your feelings. Learn how to effectively manage conflict.
Reach out to old friends from high school or even from elementary school. These days, you can do this through emails or texts. It may be awkward to call, but texting or email feels like a safer alternative caller ID.
More and more through our lives, we experience is of a very hectic pace of life. Now, learn to slow down. Find a sacred place or serene spot where you can retreat, reflect, and rejuvenate.
It’s time to know the power of your private demons. We all have them. We often deny them. All of us experience fear, shame, and guilt. Many of us have experienced trauma. To deny the existence of our demons only enhances their power.
It’s time to find out what you really enjoy in life and to do more of it.
Likewise, it’s the time in life to recognize what has drained you, caused you misery, and wasted your time. This may be a person or it may be an activity. Consider giving it up.
If it’s not too late, be sure to ask your parents or close relatives any questions you may have about your early life or theirs. Too many people I know have failed to ask the appropriate questions and are left without crucial answers.
If you have grandchildren, make sure to create enjoyable memories with them.
For many, one of the hardest decisions we have to make is deciding what the next step will be in a career path. This is a decision best not made alone, consult others before deciding.
It’s useful to plan ahead for your housing situation: to stay put, to downsize, to reconstruct, to move, or to secure senior housing ahead of time?
My friend Frank Ascione advises that when you do your planning, think 10 years out about the decisions you make today. Think about how the decisions will play out over the next 10 years. If you’re 65, imagine in 10 years, being 75. Think about the difference that would make; then plan accordingly.
Here are some things to do to prepare for the future, and to be sure that you were family will not be overburdened if something should happen to you:
Be sure your papers are in order and your partners know where to find them and what they mean.
Clear out the junk so that if your partner or children have to take care, they will not be burdened by trying to figure out what to do with your junk.
What things you consider valuables, may be junk to others.
It may be time to make a will and let the recipients know what the plans are.
It is time to do an advanced directive in case something should happen to you and put you in a position of possibly dying. By stating how you want to be treated, for example, do you want to be put on a ventilator? Stating ahead of time how you want to be treated, it relieves your family members from making those difficult decisions.
Not everyone needs one, but consider setting up a trust which states where your resources are going to go if something should happen to you.
When you record your thoughts and musings in a journal.
Consider having a pet. This could be a dog, a cat, or even a fish. Pets help us stay healthy and young.
Either join or organize a group of men who will get together regularly, preferably at a coffee shop. Having a group like this has been shown to make life happier and healthier.
For the most part, don’t worry too much about passing your money on to your children. Research shows that it might take you 40 years to accumulate your money, but your children will spend it in about a year.
As we grow older, like it or not, being in pain will become more of a regular occurrence. Think about how to manage pain.
When pain is extreme, as it will be some of the time, it can take up all of our time.
We all live on psychological spectrums: it’s OK to say I’m a little bit OCD, or I am kind of ADD, etc.
If our self-esteem has been derived from our work, and we are no longer working, we have to think about where we will find positive self-esteem.
As we grow older, it’s useful to remember that commitment to life.
As we age, we may spend a lot of our time trying to understand and utilize smart devices. Remember, they are smart because they have figured out a way to suck up most of our time and attention. With AI, they are quickly evolving to become a new part of our brains, an extension that will do much of the thinking for us. Reflect on whether you want it that way.
You may have more money than you ever had, but it’s still hard to think about money. Do you need to think about it in a different way than when you were growing up? There’s a mindset about money that sticks with us, no matter how much money we have.
Remember that the older we get, the more like ourselves we become.
I believe that being respected is more important than being liked. We may have spent years earning respect, but it can be lost in a second.
Finding our voice is no cliché. Even in our senior years, the ability to speak our truth is a defining moment in life.
A traumatic event, no matter when it occurred in life, can alter our personality, biology, and even our DNA.
If we believe that we are still impacted by trauma, we should seek therapy with a therapist who’s comfortable dealing with trauma.
Some of us give so much of ourselves to help others that we become mentally exhausted and cannot even help ourselves.
One of the biggest dangers of growing old is becoming isolated. Remember, the most important predictor of health and happiness is the quality of your relationships. If you have none or few, you’re more likely to experience unhappiness.
Isolation is a great danger for senior men who have depended on work for social connections. In retirement, it’s easy to fall into long stretches of being alone. Research shows this is extremely unhealthy and can contribute to poor health.
I found that one way to stay connected to friends and family is to send birthday cards. Attentiveness strengthens friendships. We all like to be remembered and for our birthdays these days, it’s rare to receive real birthday cards.
Next Steps Group
There are still a few spaces available for my new group, Next Steps, which will start this Wednesday, March 15 from 3:30 PM – 5:00 PM. Please contact me ASAP if you would like to participate.
Mark your calendars for Friday, March 31st for Leaders Connects Present Transforming Spaces: The Future of Housing and Work with Bill Milliken from Milliken Realty Company, David Whitinger from Office Evolution, and Peter Allen from EA2.
Stay tuned! Our sign-up form will be released later this week.