Let’s Talk: About creating a vibrant longevity

It’s been almost one year since I officially retired from my psychotherapy private practice, and like most newly retired, I’ve been busier than ever … just not getting paid! There’s lots to do out in the world to make it a better place, but it’s important to sort through priorities so that these precious years aren’t aimlessly lost to whatever someone else demands of us.

A recent Stanford Center for Longevity study found that people in their 50s are far more vital in their outlook than people in their 50s were even 10 years ago. And generally, people are saying, “I’m up for it, I’m game, I want to do more.” It’s clear that this reclaimed vitality can continue for many more years than expected. We not only have a longer life expectancy, but longer health expectancy — a powerful combination!

For those of you approaching or well into retirement, I wonder if there’s a little voice inside that describes a yearning for something more, new, or different. People actually now have time to reinvent themselves, or as AARP’s new initiative proclaims, “reimagine your life.” Some people may retire from their jobs, not knowing what to do, what they should reinvent themselves into. It’s not uncommon to find that retirement can lead to depression. The loss of purpose, structure, identity and difficulty shifting with the ever-changing flow of life can be disorienting. The old rocking chair picture of retirement where a person is supposed to just “rest and enjoy life” is often not a viable alternative to the job or career.

Our new health and longevity has left us suspended between the old way of seeing ourselves as “retired … from life” and without need for much purpose to what now is uncharted territory and possibly the greatest challenge in our lives. It is now a time for getting a “second wind.” No longer is the vibrant longevity, that defies stereotypes of aging, an exception to the rule, but rather leading long, creative and productive lives is fast becoming the norm.

So rather than retiring from something, imagine retiring to something. And rather than a long skid into senility, or a door marked “exit,” imagine possibility, challenge, change. If you’ve had a long-nurtured dream or “bucket list” now is the time, today is the time, to take a step toward making it a reality. The new 70s is not the 60s, it’s the new 70s!

So here are some steps to consider:

1) Look inward and check the story for any limitations you are telling yourself about who you are at this stage of your life and what is possible.

2) Avoid naysayers, and create new and authentic connections with people who stimulate a positive view of yourself and the world.

3) Explore new options and think broadly and honestly about the direction your life must take to become who you’d like to be and what you’d like to be doing.

4) As you consider new possibilities, notice what gives you bliss and feelings of joy and follow that path to reinvention.

5) Finally, take action based on a clear sense of how you would like your life story plot line to follow.
I leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Emile Zola, 18th century French novelist, “If you asked me what I came into this world to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud.”

Satsuki Ina, Ph.D. is a licensed marriage and family therapist with specialization in intergenerational trauma. She can be reached at satsukina44@gmail.com. She is also a filmmaker (“Children of the Camps” — www.children-of-the-camps.org and “From a Silk Cocoon: A Japanese American Renunciation Story” — www.fromasilkcocoon.com). The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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