Older and Wiser?

A quiet voice deep in the background on one side whispers, "Do it. You've earned it."  Another voice from deep on the other side whispers, "Don't do it. There's no real reason to do it."

And so goes the simple, recurring conversation in the back of my brain, a not-so-subtle debate about retirement.

The whispers turn to shouts every time I learn about an 'old person' doing something that defies the aging stereotype. Recently my internal debate intensified when I saw a local TV news report about a 92-year-old school crossing guard celebrating her 50th anniversary on that job.

The do-it-don't-do-it chorus crescendoed a few mornings ago as I watched a Today Show report about "super-agers".

Super-agers are people 70 and older who have brain power and physical abilities like 20-somethings.  Scientific studies including brain scans back this up.

How do they do it? According to the story, they challenge both brain and body and learn new skills. They push themselves and push through challenges, obstacles and pain. Many of them learn a new language or learn to play music.

One source for this news report is a book called "Dynamic Aging" by Katy Bowman. I'll probably order it as soon as I post this blog. The short summary of the author's advice: Reduce stress, stay hopeful and stay positive.  One of the seniors profiles in the story says it simply: keep moving.

I've been visualizing retirement lately, as you know, but I have two concerns about giving up full time employment: how will I fund my life and how will I spend my time? I have some time to ponder those concerns. One certainty: I can't imagine sitting around and doing nothing.

There's an old idea that with age comes wisdom. Maybe these "super-agers" reinforce that concept. Maybe the wise part of growing old is to not think old. The only aspect of retirement that gives voice to the do-it side of my internal debate is the desire to cut back on the work load, which would probably reduce my stress.  I am already fairly physically active and my job fuels mental acuity. In addition I do take music lessons and hope to resume language lessons at some point. Working around young people keeps me young too. Maybe retirement, for me, will just be a less intense version of what I already do.

My brain debate will continue, as will my search for a clearer vision of my future. I also plan to balance that pursuit with a philosophy of carpe diem. Maybe this is the kind of thinking and attitude that makes us boomers wiser as we get older. Stay tuned.