The youth of every generation think they will never be old. But all will be if they live long enough. Very few give any thought to the kind of old person they want to be. This is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of The Kind of Old Man I Want to Be:
You and I are witnessing something that is unprecedented in the history of the United States. The number of people getting old is at record rates. And I am helping. Yes, I am one of the 76 million babies born after World War II during the years 1946 to 1964. We are called the Baby Boomers. We are the largest generation of older people ever assembled in the US and we started turning 65 in 2011. And I, being born in 1946, was in the first class of Boomers to turn 65. But when I had my 65th birthday I was not alone. On my birthday 9,999 other Boomers had their 65th birthday. That’s right, 10,000 Baby Boomers per day are turning 65 and they are joining the 45 million people who are already there. Folks, that is a lot of old folks.
Look at it this way. There are a whole flock of people age 50 and above who are being herded toward the gate marked “65” and 10,000 per day are going through it. What does that gate lead to? For the minority it will lead to a pasture of green grass, financial security, comfort and years of good health. For others, it will open on to a rocky pasture with an oasis only now and then to sustain them. And for others, what lies beyond the 65 gate is a desert of poor relations, lack of finances, and poor health—a life full of emptiness. Statistics show that not many of us are prepared for what is on the other side of the gate. Many do not have a plan, a map or a blueprint for being 65 and beyond. Wise counsel for contentment in old age is needed.
How many old people are content with being old? We are human beings and not human doings so maybe contentment hinges more on being (the kind of person we are) than on doing (what we fill our time with). Many old people are finding things to kill time while they are waiting for time to kill them. That is not the kind of old man I want to be.
Old people pass through the gate and enter the pasture. On the other side of the pasture, opposite the gate, is a door—death’s door. We don’t know how long we get to stay in the pasture, but we do know that everyone who enters the gate will leave by the door. Are we prepared for that door to open for us? Are we prepared to die? I certainly want to be the kind of old man who is content to live and content to die. That is real contentment. I will have more to say about contentment throughout the book. I just want you to know that we can learn a lesson about contentment from Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company. He retired a millionaire but he was content to live and to die never having owned a Cadillac.