Retirement Can Mean Start of Something New

Retirement Can Mean Start of Something New

Jim Stinson, Former Consultant on Older Adult Ministries


I had the privilege of attending a retirement event for a friend recently. He is, by normal standards, an older person. And with that standard comes certain societal assumptions—the attitude that he should retire, that he should not be in the work place. Presumably these assumptions are made purely on the basis of aging.

What was so wonderful about this event is that it was the third time he retired. Someone evidently asked him if he was going to bow to the realities of aging and really retire this time. I’m not sure of the actual conversation, but obviously this person had bought into a misconception of aging. He had assumed, we can suppose, that age automatically brings with it an inability to keep going, to continue to find ways to be of service to one’s community. My friend used two words in response to that assumption, “Not so!” 

It was a perfect answer. Age does not disqualify a person from fulfilling his or her life in ways that are meaningful. It does not bring with it a mandate to do nothing. It does not mean a person automatically falls into a category called “I’m old and no longer have to fully participate in life.” Aging very often does bring some limitations that might cause us to change the ways we find fulfillment and a sense of purpose. But it does not exempt us from wanting to be useful and fulfilled. Nor does it mean that we cannot continue to find new avenues of being useful and fulfilled.

“Not so!” What a wonderful reminder for all of us. Living fulfilled lives does not expire until we do.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross published a book nearly 50 years ago entitled, “To Live Until We Say Goodbye.” It was a pictorial journal of several people that she and a photographer chronicled after they had received a terminal diagnosis. It remains one of my favorite reads of all time, always reminding me that life should be lived as fully as possible until our last breath is taken.

It can be a daunting task to challenge older adults to live accordingly, but if we do not we are shortchanging them. They, like all people, are called to ministry. They too need to be reminded, in the words of John Wesley:

Do all the good you can, by all the means you can,

in all the ways you can, in all the places you can,

at all the times you can, to all the people you can,

as long as ever you can.

Feel free to print or share with your congregation. © 2013 Rev. James Stinson