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The Importance of Having “To Dos”

Recently, my 77 year old mother who still works three days per week  — and braves the buses and trains at rush hour to do so — announced that she’d like to retire. Again.

This would be her third retirement in fact.

There was the official one at the usual age of 65, another a few years later after she’d gone back to work to help a friend’s flailing office, and now the most recent one.

I am supportive of her and know damn well that she’s earned it. She has literally worked since she was 16 years old.

But as I hung up the phone after she’d told me about her plans, my biggest concern was not for her financial health, but for her physical and mental health. For better or worse sometimes, a job brings with it an identity – a place to go and a role to play that can be hard to replace.

Rising each day in time for a steady line up of t.v. shows won’t do it, nor will golfing or lying on a beach, despite what the retirement commercials would have you believe.

The only thing that will work is a sense of obligation to someone or something each and everyday.

Maybe it’s volunteering at a local school or food bank.

Maybe it’s looking in on some neighbors who are ill and could use an extra set of hands…

After 12 years of assisting older adults and their families, I’m more certain of this truth than anything else: Knowing that you matter is stronger than any medication around.

So if your aging parent wants to scale back like mine don’t fight it, support it!  Then do what you can to help them find ways in which to be useful to others and to their communities.

And promise me you’ll never, ever underestimate the importance of having “to dos”!

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