At twenty-five, I frequently lamented that I couldn’t wait to be thirty-five years old. That might seem odd, but I was sure I would be taken seriously by thirty-five. My ideas, opinions, and suggestions would carry more weight.
Of course, by the time I reached thirty-five, I discovered it wasn’t that simple. It never was about age but rather the weight of wisdom that mattered. We all carry wisdom from place to place, from one gathering to the next, from one conversation to the next. Sometimes my wisdom is valuable, and sometimes it quietly absorbs the wisdom of others.
One of my favorite places to be as a child was to hang around on the edges of adult conversation. My parents knew there would be a barrage of questions to follow. What did he mean by that? What was she talking about? Who did that? And of course, my favorite, why?
For me, the older the storyteller, the more fascinating. I didn’t realize how often I gained pure wisdom merely by listening. Of course, I can’t say they were all over sixty-five, but I am sure that the older they were, the more fascinating their tales.
Did you know that according to our last census, nearly seventeen percent of the American population is 65 years or over? That’s more than double what it was in 1950. And the projections for 2050 are just under a quarter of the population.
That’s a lot of wisdom, storytelling and the opportunity to model the productive, giving lifestyle long into our eighties. That’s a lot of years to be successful at being generous.
A Stanford University study asked retirees to define success between generosity and wealth. A stunning 85 percent defined their success by their generosity. In addition, they reported high levels of happiness and a sense of purpose.
Millions of older Americans volunteer to help others or specific causes. Here’s how the study said they benefited:
- Lower stress levels – 73%
- Better Physical health – 73%
- Enriched sense of purpose – 92%
- Increased happiness – 96%
The study also found that older Americans volunteering their time are more likely to live longer.
So, here are a few questions you can answer to increase your opportunities to be happier and live longer?
- Where can I lend a pair of useful hands, a well-honed skill or the flexibility to be present when needed?
- Where can I learn a new skill while providing needed help?
- How much can I give to causes I care about but still have the resources to care for myself and my family for the rest of my life?
- How do I want to be remembered?
- What difference do I want to make in my community or the world while I still have the energy to give my time, talents, and resources?
- What values do I want my children and grandchildren to learn from my actions?
- Have I made my giving goals clear through my estate planning, or do I need an expert to help me create a clear philanthropy strategy?
- Who can help me answer these questions?
The questions are in no particular order. For some, you might have quick answers. For the stumpers, give yourself time to think about the answers and next steps. Then, find a trusted person and share your thoughts.
Maybe it’s your spouse, best friend, sibling, or a favorite cousin. Permit them to ask more questions. Or give me a call because I love these kinds of discussions.
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