A constant theme among the grandmothers in my circle has been a feeling of contentment – a sense that their life has come full circle and is complete.
There is no argument this is a wonderful feeling, but what if I told you that the contentment you’re feeling now could lead to depression?
This is what I discovered after speaking with several older grandparents, those whose grandkids are adults – some with children of their own.
This older group of grandparents often share a sense of emptiness, even if their minds and bodies are healthy.
THE IMPORTANCE OF PLANNING AHEAD
The emptiness stems from the fact they are not being kept busy with family commitments as they once were. And they hadn’t planned for this.
Many in this generation, people in their 80s and 90s, are amazed at their longevity. They had not designed their lives to embrace this. They did not consider planning ahead.
These people had succumbed to the contentment of becoming grandparents, immersed themselves in that role, not preparing for when those grandchildren grew up with their own busy lives to lead.
It is like experiencing the empty nest syndrome for the second time.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, a boy born today in Australia has a life expectancy of 85.6 – 90.5 years while a girl born today would have a life expectancy of between 90 – 92.2 years.
When you consider that 60 per cent of newborn babies live longer than their life expectancy and there are more medical breakthroughs to come, it won’t be long before the average life expectancy will be well into the 100s.
A report by National Geographic revealed that a 72-year-old in today’s Japan had the same odds of dying as a 30-year-old in the preindustrial world.
Put another way, “72 is the new 30”.
IF 72 IS THE NEW 30, WHY DO WE STOP PLANNING AHEAD IN OUR 50S?
Do you remember how you felt at 30? No doubt you were full of plans and goals for a wonderful life ahead.
So why are so many of us, in our 50s and 60s, neglecting to plan ahead?
I’ve asked many grandmothers this question. Invariably the answer is that they do not have the time. They are too busy – working and spending time with their grandkids.
What happens when they retire?
I ask them what they plan to do with all that time when the grandkids are in school and have social and sporting commitments. When the grandkids have their own busy lives.
It’s easy to get caught up in the role when a visit to Gran’s is the highlight of a child’s week.
WHAT WILL YOU DO WHEN YOU HAVE MORE TIME?
However, in the blink of an eye, those tiny tots are teenagers, and, no matter how strong the love and the bond, visiting Gran will not be the priority it once was.
I am always amazed when the older grandparents I speak to act surprised that their beloved adult grandkids don’t spend more time with them.
Have they forgotten how busy life gets when you are working full time with a family of your own?
The sad truth is that many of them feel they have lived past their ‘use by’ date and they are just biding time – until their time comes.
The problem is they didn’t prepare. They didn’t have a plan that would keep them engaged and ensure they felt they were still contributing.
Most of these great-grandparents don’t have the strength or stamina to babysit young children on a regular basis so it is their children, the grandparents, who take on this role when necessary.
Adjusting to new limitations of an aging body can be challenging and depressing.
Having a realistic view of how things might work, or not when you enter this stage of life is crucial in designing a plan.
HOW I STARTED PLANNING AHEAD
It is no secret how much I adore my role of Grandy to the Goddesses and most of my peers expected that would be enough, particularly as I’m still working.
They were astounded when I started my blog with the aim to take up writing again full time.
It was really tough too. Most of the minutes of most of my days are planned and I had no intention of giving up precious memory-making
moments with the Goddesses.
Somehow I found the time to learn a whole bunch of technical stuff I had never given thought to before.
At this point in my life, time slips through my fingers like water from an open tap.
But I had looked into the future. I had seen those adorable Goddesses leading the very busy and rewarding lives I’m craving for them to have.
I don’t want them to feel responsible for entertaining me and filling up my time.
An article I recently read had tips for good deeds you can do in a day. Top of the list was calling your grandmother.
Instead of the all-embracing and oh so exciting event of a visit to Nan’s, calling her becomes a good deed for the day.
PLANNING AHEAD TO STAY CONTENTED
Like parents, grandparents need to be prepared to let go and not rely on the younger generations in their family to fulfil them. Fulfilment comes from within and the plans you make to keep life interesting.
Sometimes the planning requires immediate action to lay the foundations for your goal to flourish.
I’m all for enjoying every second I can with all of my family and for living in the moment, but I also understand the necessity of planning for a future that is less busy.
Contentment is defined as a mental or emotional state of satisfaction – a state of having accepted one’s situation.
It is a wonderful feeling but if you want it to last you must be prepared for the changes ahead.
Don’t allow the contentment comfort cushion stop you from making the time to plan ahead and lay some foundations if necessary.
Close your eyes for a moment and picture yourself in 30 years’ time.
What are you doing? Are you happy and fulfilled? Do you feel useful and important?
You should and you can. It’s all in the plan.
Happy planning and have a gleeful week, Tamuria.