Happily fulfilled in old age Print
Grand Mom
Thursday, Jun. 23, 2011 -- 12:00 AM

grand mom

I was fascinated by an article I read this morning over my coffee and cereal.

It was in the July issue of Ladies Home Journal, and written by Michael J. Berland, president of a polling and research firm, who states, “Sure, her family makes her happy, but despite what society expects, a woman’s sense of fulfillment comes from being independent and having a sense of control over her own life.” He calls this the silver lining on that recession cloud because it has driven so many women to become actively involved in their family finances.

The survey says that 90 percent of the respondents say they have become more deeply engaged in the family’s finances since the recession started. I can’t imagine running a household without knowing where the money is going, whether a woman works outside the home or not, but I do know there are still some women out there who will let the “breadwinner” make all the big decisions and be satisfied to get an allowance every week.

I personally know one woman whose (doctor) husband passed away recently, and despite the fact that he had been ailing for a long time, she had absolutely no knowledge of what (if any) mortgage they had nor if and where they had other investments. Fifty years ago this kind of woman was not so rare, but today?

Polls mean what?

When asked “How important is each of these in making you feel fulfilled?” this poll of 1,000 American women concludes that happiness comes from within. No surprise there, of course. “Being at peace with myself and my decisions” was top with 74 percent. Close behind was “Having the freedom to make the choices I want” with 72 percent, followed by “Leading a life that has meaning” 71 percent and “Raising good kids” 70 percent.

I can relate to those, but not to the category “religion/spirituality”, which got a mere 30 percent. In my life religion is so tightly interwoven with each of the others that I couldn’t have one without the other.

Things that build us up

I can have peace of mind today because I was blessed with many more years of a happy marriage than most women, and my faith tells me that my husband is enjoying a far greater life than he had in his last years on earth. I had 20 years staying home raising my children, and I cannot regret a decision I made about going to work after my 10th child was born.

Sure, I had two pre-schoolers who didn’t get as much attention from me as my first three kids, and I do regret that. Sure, my older kids had to help out with chores more than most of their friends, and they had to work their way through college, but those were character builders, right?

I recall a summer day I had a financial awakening of sorts after I had been teaching for a few years. A salesman came to the door offering a savings plan approved by our school district in which you could select any amount to be deducted from your salary to an IRA.

Surprisingly, it was my husband who convinced me to do it. After living from paycheck to paycheck for so long, the idea of savings seemed preposterous. Now, 40 years later, I wonder how I would be facing the “black hole” of prescription drugs if I hadn’t worked and saved.

Fulfillment in life

It’s a known fact that science and technology is keeping us alive much longer than our ancestors. I try to remind myself to be thankful for that even as I face buying a new hearing aid and sort out my ever-growing pile of prescription pills, eye drops, inhalers, and over-the-counter remedies for everything from headaches to freaky foot faults.

I am grateful for prescription insurance that pays a portion of the cost of staying alive, but nervously aware of the approaching “black hole” where I must pay the full ridiculously high cost of prescription drugs until I reach another “catastrophic” level. I can hardly wait!

This author is right, I admit. Fulfillment does come from peace of mind and a sense of independence. Old age isn’t so bad after all, not when you can still live independently, drive to all those doctor appointments, and pay for all those prescriptions.

So you are aware of every inch of your aging body falling apart? That means you still have your mind (usually) and your greatest investment, your kids. As 89-year-old Betty White says in her AARP commercial, “Get over it!”

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