Saturday, December 1, 2012

Preparation for Happiness in the Twilight Years

Can we be old and happy at the same time? Old age and its social implications was the topic discussed this week in the Peace Weekly column on happiness. The columnist reminds us that we are entering a time in history when reaching the age of hundred will not be all that unusual.

 In our passage through life, the decade of the twenties usually is spent by continuing study for the fortunate few, and for most others, work; in our thirties, marriage, and extending into the fifties raising a family. At sixty, most plans have been completed. But, the columnist asks how many have a plan for the next 40 years? For our old age? It's important to think of these remaining years, he says, and make them profitable ones.

Without a plan for these remaining years, loneliness is bound to be a problem for many. We know only too well from the Korean experience that many find life unbearable and have no desire to keep living.

The later years should be years of blessing. A long life is an unexpected gift. These final years  should be appreciated and enjoyed, but for many it's all about loss. Yes, it is true that with age, much sadness comes, and much is lost: the death of friends, relatives, and at times even children. There are also family problems to contend with, as well as financial and health problems, but with the proper attitude these can be overcome.

During the last years, it is important to have friends with which to share our losses. Furthermore, we have a need to continue to study, which is encouraged by the Church by providing parish educational programs for the aged. The columnist recommends these programs to all the elderly.

Living close to the children means  there will often be conflicts. Parents often see the desires they had for the children crushed, but rather than accepting the sadness this brings, the columnist suggests that parents see themselves in their children's shoes, to better appreciate the challenges they have to face in a much more competitive society than existed when they were growing up. The parents and the children both tend to experience different realities: raising their children was the primary interest of the parents; preparing for the eventual  death of their parents often becomes the primary  concern  of the children. These divergent viewpoints only brings sadness to both. Instead of expectations directed to the children the trust in the spouse would be the wiser course of action.

In  the States, the house parents live in constitutes about 30 percent of their possessions; 70 percent is in investments. In Korea, the house is 90 percent. The columnist ends by stating that when aging parents give their children their inheritance before they die, they lose three things: their children, their independence, and their savings.  It is better to use that money, he says, to enjoy their lives together.

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