Ageism is not a word those in retirement spend much time worrying about, but when this attitude takes hold in a society it can negatively influence those of us who are older. The term is used to describe discrimination against older adults, an attitude based solely on age. And the group that reflects this prejudice probably more than any other group may be the elderly themselves. Age for many is something to deny and hide, but we have spent years preparing for these wisdom-filled years, and should they not be the fruitful years?
The Maryknoll Society prepares its Maryknollers for retirement with workshops, literature and talks in an effort to provide us with what we need to know for a peaceful and fulfilling retirement. Each country has its special challenges if the Maryknoller chooses to retire in the country he worked in. Korea has a great many benefits as a place of retirement, and one important benefit would be a Christian community very devoted to their priests. One negative is that elders are not a vibrant part of the society. A partial reason for this is that parents give all of what they have, while they are still healthy and mentally alert, to the children and are then reduced to asking for help from their children when a need arises. They become dependent on their children when that should not be necessary--a sad example of a custom in our society that takes some of the zest out of the life we should be living.
As Maryknollers, our problems are few since the Maryknoll Society takes good care of us. What problems we have tend to come from personality issues, our health, lack of hobbies or interests, and an attitude that doing is all important; the leisure life is seen as an embarrassment. However, being a workaholic is not a good preparation for retirement. If we were asked, when younger, what we did, most would answer: "our work," not that we were enjoying the life God gave us. Doing maybe what consumes most of our time but being is what life is all about. It is the being that is going to influence everything we do, and it will continue to be so when we are no longer able to be doing.
It is important for Maryknoll to have happy retirees for that means health will be enhanced. The members can continue to help the Society and everyone they meet and, as a consequence, the society they live in. The happier we are as members, the fewer the problems the Society will have.
Last Sunday was vocation Sunday. We have all received the call of Jesus to be his disciples and this does not cease when we can no longer work. This call continues throughout life. With a contemplative attitude towards life we should enjoy every day as a gift, a grace, this is our thanks to God, especially the twilight years before we return to the one who gave us the gift.