2/15/12

Flourishing in Life's Second Half

"I want to live to be 100," I told a girlfriend ... 50 years ago.

Now, past the half-way mark to that age, I'm not sure I have the same goal. This body of mine is not cooperating. But I'm not about to give up! I want to flourish and thrive in my latter years.

The key to flourishing is never retiring from the Kingdom of God. Until God calls us home, we still have purpose, whether it is as a prayer warrior, a witness, a servant, an adviser, or in some other capacity. We are to follow God consistently and without compromise, flourishing in the courts of God and bearing fruit in our old age. (Psalm 92:12-15)

But there are also some practical things that we can do to flourish in the second half of life. Let me use the letters in "AGE WELL" to encourage you to join me!

To age well, we first need Acceptance. We need to accept those things that we can't change or control. It makes no sense to complain about not being 21 anymore. Wisdom tells us that stressing about aging is foolish ~ we can't change the fact that our bodies are aging, and we can't control many of the limitations that are bound to come (symbolized in Ecclesiastes 12:5). Acceptance brings freedom in this special season of life.

Along with acceptance, we need Gratitude. Aging is about inevitable losses, but instead of focusing on the losses, we can focus on what we have ~ family, friends, things, opportunities that come with aging, etc. We can learn to thank God, appreciate people, and enjoy the blessings of life (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

We need Exercise. We can't neglect our bodies and expect that we will be healthy. God can sustain us (strengthen and "carry" us) in old age (Isaiah 46:4), but we need to cooperate and make wise choices, too, and not take our health for granted.

Eating well and hydration are givens, but the elderly tend to become sedentary, and that brings a variety of health issues. We need to check with a doctor first, but then find activities that encourage us to keep moving. Whether walking, swimming, or participating in classes, we can start slow and then build a healthy habit.

And we need Wisdom. Aging brings many transitions and changes, and we need wisdom to make choices. Some opportunities will be a thing of the past, but senior citizens have many opportunities these days that their parents couldn't imagine. We need to consider our physical strength, abilities, and time, and ask the Lord for wisdom (James 1:5) about what to pursue in our remaining years.

Financial decisions will continue into old age, especially if we did not make wise choices when we were younger ~ we have to figure out how to make the dollars stretch. Or, if we made wise investments and planned for our retirement and beyond, we need wisdom to allocate special funds for the Lord's work and family members.

We need Expression. Aging is not the time to wilt away, but rather to express ourselves in a variety of ways. We can express our love to family and friends with words and in practical ways. We can encourage others through volunteer work. We need to play and laugh ~ laughter is strong medicine (Proverbs 17:22a) for our mental and emotional health.

The important thing is not to shut down or become a loner, but to continue to reach out, share with others, and stay involved in the world. Consider how you might encourage, motivate, or influence others with your words, actions, or resources.

We need Lessons (new things to learn). We need to keep our minds active, and we can choose, these days, from hundreds of activities. Simple games are a good start, or crossword puzzles. Trying different recipes or taking different routes to something familiar will stretch us and keep our minds alert.

We might pick up a hobby we started as a child, learn to play an instrument, join a book club, become a computer whiz, visit a museum, or enjoy a concert. Perhaps we'll travel and discover the wonders of the world. We might even take college classes and get a degree... or write a book (like I did)!

Consider teaching others something you know, too. We always learn more ourselves when we teach others. Keep your mind fresh as you stimulate others' thinking.

And finally, we need Legacy-building. This is a way to continue to "bear fruit" in old age. We take the wisdom, lessons, and experiences we have gained throughout life, and consider how we might share them with our children and grandchildren. God wants us to declare His power to the next generation (see Psalm 9:1; 71:17-18; 78:4-6).

It might be as simple as writing in a journal; or we might ask a tech-savvy younger relative or friend to create a video of us as we share our history. Think about the things you will leave behind someday, and who should receive them. Who will get your Bible? Who will get your most valuable books or artwork? Make a list. Make a will. Make your wishes known.

We can all age well as we follow through on the things we know will strengthen our lives, bless others, and count for eternity.

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