Tag Archives: growing old

The Kind of Old Man I Want to Be: A paradigm for 65 and beyond

The_Kind_of_Old_Man__Cover_

Back when I had my 65th birthday I realized that the majority of the people in the world would consider me an old man. I am in the minority (i.e., in denial), so I got to thinking about what kind of old man I wanted to be when I got to be one. I did not want to just morph into an old man, so I decided to be proactive and choose the kind of old man I wanted to be and then to take steps to be that kind of person. This book presents a paradigm for contentment in old age regardless of one’s circumstances. Its basic premise is that the kind of old person you are will determine your contentment level. After surveying books available on aging, all of which have to do with doing and coping rather than being, I deal with character traits that I want to have as an old man. Then I present how I want to live out those traits by being fun to live with, being loquacious, and one who can carpe diem. This book deals with writing the rest of one’s life story, the end of one’s life story (facing death and beyond), and putting meaning to one’s life story. These are things that older people think about a lot. The findings of my research in the areas of literature, philosophy, psychology and religion pertaining to dealing with death and the meaning of life are presented in the last two chapters.

The book contains humorous quotes, antidotes and illustrations throughout the text pertaining to the topic addressed. Examples of doing what I say I do not want to do are given tongue-in-cheek for illustrative purposes.

“Easy mix of humor and an erudition lightly worn. St Augustine meets Josh Billings.”
Chris Murray (Editor)

Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Antioch Publications (September 2016)
Language: English
ISBNs:
978-0-9967929-3-6 Print
978-0-9967929-4-3 Mobi
978-0-9967929-5-0 ePub

 

You can find this book at major booksellers including:
Amazon USA
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble
Books-A-Million

If cows can be content, why can’t old people?

They do have things in common, you know, like being put out to pasture. How many of you remember the advertising slogan “Carnation Condensed Milk, the milk from contented cows”?

Elbridge Amos Stuart was born in North Carolina (like I was) in 1856 (like I wasn’t). He was an American milk industrialist and creator of Carnation evaporated milk which was a staple in American homes until the 1960s. In 1907, he introduced the promotional phrase “Carnation Condensed Milk, the milk from contented cows”. This slogan referred to the higher quality milk from happy cows grazing in the lush Pacific Northwest. Carnation cows held the world milk production record for 32 consecutive years. That is some accomplishment for those who have been put out to pasture.

Old people and cows have more in common than being put out to pasture. Their lives consist of the basics of eating and sleeping. Cows are content with that if the grass is good. As cows go about their pastoral life they unthinkingly produce milk. The quality of the pasture makes a difference in the quality of what they produce. For old people, the quality of the person they are makes a difference in their contentment level when in the pasture. Unfortunately, most older people are not thinking about the kind of person they are. They are thinking about the pasture they have found themselves in and most are not content.

I believe that by middle-age people should be paying attention to the kind of person they are because that is the kind of old person they will be if they do not change. The character traits of being aggressive, looking out for yourself first, getting ahead of the pack, etc. that society demands of up-and-coming adults will only get you ostracized to the back of the pack when you are out to pasture. That is not  a receipt for contentment in old age. What is needed is a paradigm for contentment for old people.

Here are some excerpts from Chapter 1 of my book The Kind of Old Man I Want to Be: A paradigm for 65 and beyond that will be released September 1, 2016:

What would make a person content in their old age? The answer is obvious. People who have family close by, financial security, and good health are the most content. Remember that we Baby Boomers broke all the rules and we are paying the price as we enter old age. The divorce rate for this generation is the highest in US history. Families are shattered and scattered. Consumer credit has overextended us to where the markets cannot support us and the value of retirement funds has taken a severe hit in recent years. Good health can go in a second, and we are less likely to have it the older we get. The obvious basis for contentment in old age is not the reality for most of us old people.

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Back when I had my 65th birthday I realized that the majority of the people in the world would consider me an old man. I am in the minority (i.e., in denial), so I got to thinking about what kind of old man I wanted to be when I got to be one. I did not want it to just happen. I did not want to just morph into an old man, so I decided to be proactive and choose the kind of old man I wanted to be and then to take steps to be that kind of person. I don’t want to be old, but it is the only way I know to have a long life.

As I am writing this, my wife and I are about halfway between 65 and 70 years old. We still have good health and are able to go and do; however, we are finding it takes us longer to get over going and doing. I write about the kind of old man I want to be with my wife in mind. She will have to put up with whatever kind of old man I am and she deserves the best, so, I will try to be the best old man I can.

I also write with my mother in mind. She died in her early 80’s after a few years in a nursing home. Her experience there gave me the opportunity to observe older people at their most vulnerable. There were some who were a joy to be around and some that the attendants were not paid enough to be around. What was the difference?

This was about 20 years ago and I started thinking then that a place like this could very well be my future. Some, like my mother, were not able to walk; some were not able to talk. Could I handle this if it was me? When I turned 65 I realized that the possibilities have become probabilities and I better get busy preparing myself for being an old man. What kind of old man do I want to be?

Now, I don’t claim to know how the milk got in the coconut, but I am reasonably intelligent and I should be able to figure this old man thing out. I don’t want to be like many old men who, like I said before, look for things to do to kill time while time is killing them. I have learned to look thoughtful even when I am not thinking, but I have also done a lot of actual thinking about the kind of old man I want to be.

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There are some things that I cannot do anything about and there are some things that I can. So, I will concentrate on the things I can be proactive about. One is my character or personality. I do not want to be a grumbling, complaining old man. I want to be an old man who is positive and not negative. I want to have the temperament that makes for happiness and contentment for me and those around me.

Being old comes with age

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.