"Life is a great adventure, or it is nothing."--Helen Keller "One of the wonderful things about being alive is that it is never too late.
"One of the wonderful things about being alive is that it is never too late. Not too late to write a book, to learn a new challenge, to travel, to build a house or make new friends!" says author Phyllis Whitney, who wrote her 70th book at the age of 85. Wise individuals throughout the ages have been trying to tell us that the past may be a marvellous teacher, but there is no substitute for making the most of the present! Now is the time to savour every opportunity for pleasure and fulfillment.
Our later years can be the most creative and satisfying periods of our lives, if we live them with vigour and enthusiasm. "Life is a great adventure, or it is nothing, as Helen Keller put it. The renowned writer and lecturer overcame the loss of sight, hearing and speech to master several languages and lecture throughout the world.
These days, emergency medicine and improved nutrition enable most of us to enjoy our later years in far better health than in previous generations. It's not surprising, then, that increasing numbers of 55-plus men and women are taking up new careers, immersing themselves in fulfilling hobbies or giving of their time and experience in important volunteer work.
The vigour and enthusiasm projected by many active "elderly" individuals is personified by women like Jo-Ann, a widow and retired office manager from Vancouver. At the age of 67, she virtually "fled" the stifling control of her well-meaning daughter. Together with her friend Gladys, who was 64 at the time and a former postal employee, she moved to the Okanagan Valley to run a boarding kennel for pets.
"Life is change," says Gladys. "If we had listened to the warnings of friends and family, we would've ended up as quivering masses of flesh. Instead, Jo-Ann and I are having the time of our lives." With a smile, she quotes Henry Emerson Fosdick: "It is magnificent to grow old if one keeps young!"
Ron Lawrence, a neurologist at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, stresses that while hobbies are important at any age, they take on added significance in our later years. "Hobbies enhance self-esteem and confer a sense of identity," he emphasizes. If you don't have a hobby yet, check out your library. You'll find books on hobbies for every age, temperament and talent.
Rebekah, 71, and a widow, used to operate a popular fashion boutique. She recalls, "When my husband was still alive, we both were determined to pack a maximum of zeal in our later years." She shrugs. "But then Carl died of a heart attack seven years ago, and all my dreams died with him." That's when Rebekah stopped exercising and put on quite a bit of extra weight. And her arthritis got so bad that she needed a cane for walking.
"I fell a couple of times while getting used to the cane, and that's when my son started hinting that I might be better off in a nursing home. That was my wake-up call!" Rebekah, who had enjoyed oil painting in earlier, happier days, joined a local group of amateur painters who travel to scenic locations to paint local landmarks. She made several friends among her painting "buddies" and says she feels 10 years younger.
Doris felt betrayed and cast adrift when she was forced into early retirement from her public service job. And it was with some reluctance that she accepted the invitation of a friend to join her on a bicycle tour through the French wine country. Not only did Doris get to taste some great wine, but her European jaunt gave her a brand-new outlook on life. She also made new friends and is already planning a bicycle tour through Vermont with two of them. With a new attitude, Doris now manages a busy local crisis line three times a week. "Volunteering is a loving way to affirm that we all need one another," she says.
The moment regrets take the place of dreams, we begin to age quickly. In the words of author Betty Nickerson: "...think hard and deep about what you want the rest of your life to mean to you...what you want to achieve. List your heart's desire. This is the first day of the rest of your life...fill it with light!"