The retirement years often have been called "the golden years." As with virtually everything else in life, however, whether or not your later years are golden is a matter of personal choice. You can choose to live a joy-filled retirement, full of new opportunities, new insights, new friendships, new activities, new experiences, and new time to explore many of the ideas you've always wanted to, but never had the time while you were raising your kids, building your career, and being scheduled to within an inch of your life.
Or not. You can choose to shrivel up and die. You can brood about your aches and pains. You can feel angry that you were forced into retirement. You can lament your decreasing energy and stamina. You can excessively grieve for lost loved ones. You can feel very sorry for yourself. Is this really how you want to live? Then don't.
What is Spirituality?
Spirituality is a concept that means different things to different people. For some, the word is synonymous with religion. For others, it is the belief that there is a universal mind, a force if you will, that goes far beyond the superficiality of the "May the force be with you" slogan of the Star Wars saga. For still others, spirituality is the sense that everything in the universe - people, nature, the cosmos itself - somehow is connected and each individual is part of a much greater whole than possibly can be perceived, let alone explained. One writer phrased it thusly:
"The basic meaning of spirituality is that it is a term which encompasses everything that we cannot see directly with our eyes, directly perceive by the other senses and know by our mere reason. That is spirituality in its basic meaning."
Spirituality and Aging
Whatever your own definition of spirituality, there is a general consensus that the older a person gets, the more spiritual he or she becomes. Why? Many theorize that it's because older people are more aware of their own mortality. They're no longer the indestructible teenager or twenty-something with an entire lifetime ahead of them and the belief, if they think about it at all, that death is only for :old people" and of course they're never going to be old.
After retirement, however, people have the time - sometimes far too much time - to think about their own death, to think about the meaning of their own life, to think about what, if anything, they can do this late in life to become a happier, more fulfilled person. It's not "just" the big questions, it's also the personal, practical question of "What do I do now?"
Spiritual Retirement Communities
Many spiritually-inclined retirees discover that moving to a retirement community populated by like-minded people is preferable to remaining in the home that may hold many wonderful memories, but also requires continual upkeep and maintenance. Not only are they relieved of the responsibility for cutting grass in the summer and shoveling snow in the winter, they also get almost daily opportunities to meet new friends and engage in activities they had no idea could be so enjoyable. For instance, many retirees receive great joy and comfort from pursuing non-denominational Biblical research such as that provided by The Way International
The number of faith-based retirement communities has substantially increased as the American population continues to age. Nonprofit organizations own and operate up to 80 percent of continuing care communities, 75 percent of which are affiliated with various religions. This does not mean, however, that they are limited to people who share a common faith or denomination. People of different religious beliefs are welcome, as are people with no religious beliefs whatsoever.
The accent is on spiritual living, not religion per se. Or as one such community expresses it, JCISC, an acronym standing for Jesus Christ in Street Clothes and meaning that community life is based on the values of joy, compassion, integrity, stewardship, and community.
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) reports that retirees often feel the need to give back to their communities, fulfilling this need in any number of ways. From volunteering their time and talents at a library, a hospital, a church, a school, or an animal shelter to participating in "seniors helping seniors" programs, retirees get good things done and make good things happen. Their almost universal comments are that they are receiving far more than they're giving.
Living a spiritual retirement can and does mean many things. It can and does encompass an almost limitless variety of ways in which to increase your own spirituality and happiness while doing good for both others and yourself. Yes, you actually will "do good" for yourself when you choose to live more spiritually. Research continues to show that people with a strong sense of spirituality are far less prone to both physical illnesses and psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression. The choice is yours. How do you want to spend your golden years?