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.
Susan Mary MaloneNovember 24, 2016 at 7:12 am
What a thought-provoking post, Tami! I hadn’t even thought about life in my 90s. I guess I assumed I’d still be writing and out training dogs 🙂 But what a great idea, to really take a look at that. On my list!
tamuriaNovember 26, 2016 at 11:31 am
We are fortunate to be part of a generation that understands the reality of living longer lives, something the older generations who are actually doing it were not prepared for. Makes sense to have an idea of what you want to be doing later in life.
Carol RundleNovember 24, 2016 at 8:03 am
I will never be a grandparent simply because I’m not a parent. So my life has never revolved around children. Making plans for the future had to do with MY life, not other people’s lives. Maybe that’s something others can learn from.
tamuriaNovember 26, 2016 at 11:33 am
I totally agree that is something others can learn from Carol, and I’m sure you could help with your example of planning a future to do with your life.
Beverley GoldenNovember 24, 2016 at 9:51 am
This is an interesting conversation, Tami. When I was younger, I planned and planned and planned ahead. My experience was that that planning took a lot of the spontaneity of life away and I hid behind my plans. My mother, at 100 years young, is the perfect example of not planning ahead. My father died suddenly when they were both 51 and left nothing but debt. She just faced was in front of her and stepped in to it. She has never had a ‘back up’ plan and somehow has thrived and made it through.
I know that planning is healthy and I fear I will have more of a let down when my daughter finally moves out with her fur babies, as I find as we get older, the drive and spark is not there in the same way it was when we are younger. I am always open to the future coming towards me, which as I was reminded in art class today, means letting go of the past and creating a space for something new to come in. That’s something I seem to be good at doing. Just keep saying “yes” to the things that I’m curious about and that interest me. And be prepared for life to lead you where it wants you to go, regardless of your plans. 🙂
tamuriaNovember 26, 2016 at 11:43 am
I think having a plan that closed the door to spontaneity and possibility would be just as sad as feeling empty and unproductive because you had no plan, Beverley. There is a certain freedom that comes with age and it would be a shame not to take advantage of that. Your mother is such a wonderful example of ageing gracefully and enjoying life to its fullest. I think having a plan doesn’t mean we can’t wonder off and allow life to lead us. It’s just insurance, particularly for those who have spent most of their lives caring for others, that you can find a way to continue making a contribution. Your writing platform is a plan that you can take in any direction you choose knowing that by sharing your words, you are helping others.
Sonya KolodziejskaNovember 25, 2016 at 1:41 am
This will be me when i am older. I will get bored and potentially lonely. So yes, it is very important to plan ahead for old age and to be kept busy.
tamuriaNovember 26, 2016 at 11:46 am
Boredom can be a great enemy that leads to loneliness and depression. Having a plan, even if you change it from time to time, is like insurance against this.
Lori EnglishNovember 25, 2016 at 4:56 am
WOw this is a great article and I love planning ahead it is definitely needed in the business world and in life. I have to make lists to keep organized or I can really get lost in a pile of work. I love the statistics that were in the article and trulyenjoyed it.
tamuriaNovember 26, 2016 at 11:48 am
I’m a list lover too Lori – be totally lost without them. Personal and business plans help you stay focused, busy and engaged in life.
Teresa SalhiNovember 25, 2016 at 10:37 am
I am reading this as I am sitting here at my mama’s house on Thanksgiving. A little while ago she said she didn’t know how she was going to carry on – her beloved (my step father) died last month. I wanting to help her plan ahead but mostly all we can do now is be in the moment.
tamuriaNovember 26, 2016 at 11:52 am
It is very difficult to make plans while going through the grieving process Teresa. Sometimes you need all your energy to get through each moment. Hopefully, time will ease the pain and make way for a time to plan. Sending loving and healing thoughts your Mum’s way.
Jackie HarderNovember 26, 2016 at 4:52 am
Well done…again. Great post and great insight. Will be sharing this with my “old broads” page on Facebook.
tamuriaNovember 26, 2016 at 11:53 am
Thanks, Jackie, glad you enjoyed it and are happy to share. 🙂
Joan M HarringtonNovember 26, 2016 at 12:29 pm
Hi Tamuria 🙂
Now you have given me some “food for thought” thank you! I know for me, thinking ahead, I would like to think that I will be keeping myself very busy traveling all around in my winnebago 🙂 When it does come time that I become a grandma, I hope to be living my life more freely and doing more of the things that make me feel more confident and just happier 🙂 Of course, I imagine myself having more than enough money to do what I want and to share that with my family (including taking trips) Now you got me really dreaming…..
tamuriaNovember 30, 2016 at 2:02 pm
I love that I got you dreaming Joan – that’s where the planning starts. The travel plans sound wonderful.
RobinNovember 26, 2016 at 2:14 pm
What a great article! I am seeing this with my mom-in-law. Grandkids are grown, and she gave up most of her volunteer activities as they required too much time. I wish society would have more flexible volunteer jobs for the very old. Some days they just don’t feel like doing it:) Watching her has made me be more focused on planning ahead.
tamuriaNovember 30, 2016 at 2:06 pm
It’s a tough one re the flexible volunteer jobs, Robin. It would be good if there was more flexibility but then I guess the organisations need to know what they can count on. I think that’s why having a hobby you are passionate about really works as there is no obligation to turn up if you are not up to it. I think it’s easier to find this hobby when you are younger and fitter. Sometimes you lose a bit of drive as you get older and if there is no plan already in place, life can feel empty and lonely.
Kristen WilsonNovember 26, 2016 at 3:13 pm
Well.. I was born and raised by a planner to plan (the 7 Ps of course – Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance) and have managed to maintain that growing up, as a mom and still now… so I can’t imagine that will change much either. lol
tamuriaNovember 30, 2016 at 2:07 pm
I can see this in your personality Kristen and I agree, it won’t be a problem for you. 🙂
Mindy IannelliNovember 28, 2016 at 11:18 am
So much to think about so far away! My children are still home with me but will be on their own before I know it and starting their own families. I can see how it is important to think about what I will be doing with myself once I am a grandmother and great-grandmother.
tamuriaNovember 30, 2016 at 2:10 pm
So hard to think about when you still have kids at home, Mindy. It doesn’t even seem possible you may at some stage have the time to feel like life has become empty. This advice is more for grandparents who sometimes give up on their dreams and plans as they let the incredibly addictive role of grandparenting totally absorb them.
Katarina AnderssonNovember 29, 2016 at 1:15 pm
Good article, I am not sure it is always so much a matter of planning but more about mentality. Because if you as a grandmother set up your whole time around taking care of the grandchildren it means you already to begin with probably did not have that much interests after retirement. At least I often see it, that people who are already active since before and engaged in a lot of associations and activities, they also tend to plan and not be dependent on the children and grandchildren…while its the opposite who often feel overseen. Those who retire and have no interest or desire to do things. Now I am generalizing, of course, but this is the general trend I have seen among the people I know etc. 🙂
tamuriaNovember 30, 2016 at 2:18 pm
You have a really good point Katarina. People who are already engaged and busy with interests, and are not dependant on their children and grandchildren for stimulation, are way less likely to feel overlooked. They are probably, by their very nature, busy making plans while they are enjoying their role as grandparents to young children.
Lorii AbelaNovember 29, 2016 at 2:17 pm
I have a bucket list. Hopefully, that will keep me busy.. My husband is also agreeable that we would look for more expats like us so we can do stuff when we move to Puerto Rico when we retire sometime in the future. One thing is for sure, I have to learn a new language.
tamuriaNovember 30, 2016 at 2:21 pm
Sounds like you already have a great plan in place, Lorii. Learning a language would be laying the foundations for that plan.
Joyce HansenNovember 30, 2016 at 9:05 am
Tami, you make such an insightful observation. I meet people who are excited about retiring and then get upset when they find themselves having to rear grandchildren.
The golden years have become a second round of parenting. It’s not that they dislike their children or their grandchildren, they just had other plans on how they were going to live later in life. I think it’s a topic that will get more attention now that we see how much longer people are living. We should be planning for the longer life and how we want to personally grown with all the experiences that are available to us.
tamuriaNovember 30, 2016 at 2:30 pm
Joyce, you are so right. The golden years have become a second round of parenting for some and that role can take over your life to the extent it blocks future plans. When the grandkids get older and there are fewer demands on your time, you are left with a gap and no plans to fill it. We need to be planning for our longer lives.