I frequently hear older women friends and women I work with talk about their struggles with finding a sense of purpose in their lives following retirement or as they get older. Our increasing life spans pose challenges not faced by previous generations. We may have 20, 30, or 40 years to fill following our “retirement” from regular work, parenting and being a wife or partner to our loved one.
Some women choose to continue to work at paying employment long past the “normal” retirement age of 65. Many women choose to shift to part-time or volunteer work. Other women opt to go to school or pursue their interests in art, crafting, time with family, health-related activities, and travel. Some people find a sense of purpose in developing their spirituality or through their religious involvements.
Still, I frequently hear a number of women talk about feeling isolated, lonely, and without purpose after leaving the workplace or retiring from roles as parent and spouse. The purpose of our discussion today is to stimulate conversation and a deeper level of reflection about who we are, who we want to become, and how we want to live in the last years and decades of our lives. Here are some questions to consider:
1) Has your life had a purpose in your earlier years and what was that purpose? Do you still feel drawn to that source of meaning or has it faded or changed over the years? Can you contribute to other’s lives just by being yourself and doing what you do in the world on a day-to-day basis? Can this be a source of meaning for you? Do you struggle with balancing the value of personal development, learning and spiritual growth against the value of doing things for others? How do you work with this issue? If you are struggling with a major loss, serious health issues or family problems, how do you balance putting your needs first with finding a larger sense of purpose? Do these have to been seen as being in opposition to one another?