I Was Thinking . . . Gray Power
Most people look forward to retirement as a time to sleep in, travel and do the things they never had time for when they were working. But once retirement actually kicks in, a lingering question often arises. Is this all there is?
During our working lives we always knew exactly what we were doing and what was expected of us. We were a cog in the machine that moved society forward. We were contributing. While having time to ourselves in retirement has its benefits, some question their self-worth because they have lost their productive status since they aren’t working.
Several people I know actually failed at retirement. For their own wellbeing, they found it necessary to find another job or return to their old one in a different capacity.
In our youth orientated society, youth and value are usually connected. The whole cosmetic industry’s main goal is to help people appear youthful.
“The youth are the hope for our future” is often touted by those encouraging more resources for education. While we spend considerable time and money trying to prepare the youth to take over the running of society, the value of the elderly is often overlooked. Too often the senior citizens are seen as just somebody society has an obligation to take care of. But where would we be without them?
For seven weeks this fall, forty or more seniors have arrived at the fellowship hall of a local church on a Wednesday to work. These “volunteers” spend the next four hours making lefse.
They mix, they roll, and they flip. By the time they are done for the day, they have produced 40 to 45 dozen lefse that will be sold at a bake sale later this fall. Their efforts will result in a major fund raiser for their church. Some of them are in their 60s, some 70s and several in their 80s. Several years ago, one of the men who rolled lefse was over 100. But this isn’t the exception, it is more often the rule for most seniors.
If you look at many of the people that volunteer, you will see most are of the gray hair brigade. Every day cars roll out into the community to deliver meals on wheels. Veterans are driven to The Cities for appointments and those no longer able to drive are given rides to medical appointments. Most of these drivers are seniors.
If you have ever worked on a Habitat for Humanity project, you will see the “regulars” that are there day after day, are retired. Every morning and evening, school kids get on buses that deliver them to school and back home again. Many of these drivers also collect social security.
Visit a fast-food restaurant, a convenience store, or a grocery store in the middle of the day and you will encounter workers who have probably already ended their main career.
Civic organizations like the Lions, Kiwanis, Rotary, or Optimists do tremendous work to help their communities. While not all of their members are seniors, a good many are. In our local community the Lions have spread wood chips at the playground in Lions Park, cleaned up garbage from roads and along creeks, scraped and painted buildings, and did repairs at a senior center. They continue to be productive contributors to their communities while many times receiving no payments for their services.
Many parents depend on grandparents for daycare for their children. Seniors volunteer at their churches, at the library, and in the schools. They share their wisdom and caring with those much younger.
While the “Greatest Generation” is largely past, the “Baby Boomers” have stepped into their void. Both of these generations had a strong work ethic and a desire to be contributing members of society. They contributed through their military service, their impact on the job, and continued after retirement to make a difference in their communities. I just hope they are able to pass on those traits to the next generation.
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PHOTO: I was thinking Ron Albright