Dr. King on Aging

Dr. King on Aging

My morning today took me in an unexpected spontaneous direction. Since this is the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday, I decided to take a few minutes to look back through some of Dr. King’s speeches and other quotes. I’d read many before, but this review became so captivating that it stretched on for hours.

Certainly one of the most eloquent people in recent times, Dr. King was also a profound thinker. I noticed in many of his comments that he did something we rarely see these days. He described his private thought processes, how he arrived at his strongest convictions. Here’s one example from his autobiography where he told of his inner deliberations.

  “As a young man with most of my life ahead of me, I decided early to give my life to something eternal and absolute. Not to these little gods that are here today and gone tomorrow. But to God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” 

Comments like that cause me to stop and reflect. What little gods tempt me to follow them? How much Is the real God dominant in my thinking and life? The great issues of life are decided in our private thoughts. What a gift that Dr. King was so self-revealing about his personal thoughts.

He was certainly an intelligent man, in addition to being well-spoken. One of the interesting facts I discovered while reading about him today was that he began college at age 15. Later he won the Nobel Peace Prize. What, however, surpasses his intellect and fame in my estimation is his wisdom. He was a man overflowing with insights and values. Too often these days, we demote values to mean little more than a few hot-button political positions. Authentic values are far more. They are deep inside us, motivate us, and direct our lives.

While wading through hundreds of quotes, I was impressed by how much good counsel Dr. King had about aging and life purpose. These are the primary themes of my new book that comes out next month.

His life was cut short when he was murdered at age 39, yet despite his limited years, Martin Luther King, Jr. had sage advice about long life for those of us fortunate enough to have longevity. Consider these remarks by Dr. King.

  “Oh, the worst of all tragedies is not to die young, but to live until seventy-five and yet not ever truly to have lived.”

  “It does not matter how long you live, but how well you do it.”

  “The quality, not the longevity, of one’s life is what is important.” 

   “Use me, God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.” 

  “If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving.”

This year, the Dr. King Holiday commemorates what would have been his 90th birthday. Only months before he was killed, he remarked that he was thinking ahead about what it would mean if he got to live to 90. 

  “You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid…. You refuse to do it because you want to live longer…. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab you, or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take the stand.
  Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.” 

Message received. I do not want to die in my spirit before my body dies. Thank you, Dr. King, your voice still rings out. Today, I am both instructed and inspired by your words.

Radio Interview

Radio Interview

New Thinking About Retirement is the subject of a half-hour radio interview in Chicago. Most people are surprised when their retirement years turn our far different than they expected. We are living longer and healthier these days, but many people are not happier. Hear Eric Thurman describe how to make the most of the decades after you stop working.

Click HERE to listen to the show. 

Steer Clear of Cognitive Disease

Steer Clear of Cognitive Disease

You walk into a room to visit someone you’ve known and loved all your life. They look up, right at you, but don’t recognize you. Their memories have vanished, and you are heartbroken. What if there were simple ways to prevent this tragedy? Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are not only sad but also lingering. The victims can exist in an empty fog for years before reaching the end of their lives. This is a difficult experience for them and a terrible burden for caregivers. 

Remarkable discoveries are showing that it is possible to delay the onset of dementia for years and, in many cases, avoid cognitive disease entirely. No, this isn’t the story of a new medication. Nor am I out to sell a dubious miracle cure. The good news is that simple lifestyle adjustments enable a large percentage of people to steer away from mental decline.

The promising way to counteract cognitive loss is to keep your brain stimulated. Doctors with the Memory and Aging Project at Rush Hospital in Chicago studied 900 older adults over a seven-year period. They found that people in that group who had a strong sense of purpose in their lives had double the likelihood of remaining free of Alzheimer’s than those who had a low sense of purpose.

Exercising your mind vigorously also pays great dividends. A good workout for your brain can be learning a new skill, developing a foreign language or practicing a musical instrument. The activity needs to be something stretching, more than playing crossword puzzles. Pursuing intellectual activities can push back Alzheimer’s Disease by years even among people who have a genetic risk for the disease. After studying nearly 2,000 older people for a decade, Mayo Clinic forecast a 43% reduced risk of Alzheimer’s by 2050 among those who keep their minds active. 

This topic is covered in more detail in chapter 6 of the new book THRIVE in RETIREMENT coming in February 2019.

Think Tank Questions Retirement

Think Tank Questions Retirement

The Christian worldview challenges ordinary thinking about retirement. A life of endless leisure rarely satisfies. Forty percent of older adults suffer clinical depression. Loneliness and lack of purpose in life are painfully common among older adults. Too often, people reach retirement age – a time that is supposed to be rewarding – only to find it empty and disappointing. A think tank of Christian leaders of retirement-season ministries gathered for a roundtable in November 2018 to pool their knowledge and insights.

Their papers and other resources will become available through a new clearinghouse of information called Retirement Reformation. #RetirementReformation. Near the conclusion of the roundtable, Eric Thurman presented his condensed summary of the message from their deliberations. You can listen to or read his three-minute account.

     Click LISTEN to hear to the presentation

     or read a transcript below

Three-Minute Summary

The message that I take away from our time together begins with the recognition that a lot of people are experiencing a new season of life, which is not only a new season of life for us, it is also whole new status in the history of humanity. Society is being affected by this, because this has never happened before, that people have decades of high functioning after they stopped working, their regular gainful careers. This is presenting all kinds of new challenges and opportunities that haven’t been thought about much before but are really upon us.

With that recognition, we have been examining and have been critical of the usual pattern of retirement, the usual concepts of retirement…not to be condemning but to recognize that there’s an inherent flaw. The flaw is that retirement is representing that it has great happiness and opportunity for people, but, in fact, is proving to be disappointing instead, because it’s too hollow. It has too little substance to it. It’s not satisfying for a person to live out actively for several decades, twenty or thirty years.

What do we want instead? My mind went to the comment from around year 200 by Saint Irenaeus who said that the glory of God is a human being fully alive. We’re asking ourselves the question of what would it mean to glorify God by being fully alive during this new bonus season of our lives?

The idea then becomes one of comparing the usual [patterns of retirement] to what might be. The usual [way retirement is lived out] is really variations on emptiness. We talk about how we’re able to relax now. You can relax for a while, but when you get refreshed, and you still have capacity, then what happens? That’s where the emptiness comes in. We’ve used words like void.

You could live to 100

You could live to 100

Hard to imagine living that long, isn’t it? You should consider the possibility because it is increasingly likely that you may be around for your triple digit birthday. People who pass the century mark are called centenarians and their numbers are soaring. A few years back, in 2000, the United States had only about 50,000 centenarians. Over the next fourteen years, their numbers jumped 44% to 72,000. We’re living longer, much longer than you might expect. Looking ahead to the year 2050, the forecast is for as many as 800,000 people age 100 or older!

The over-100 group is the fastest growing segment of the population by percentage. The increase in the number of centenarians is twenty times greater than the general population. Imagine your retirement lasting four decades!

The potential for my reaching 100 is one of the powerful thoughts that propelled me to research what it takes to make all this extra time enjoyable. I wanted to find how to be happy for that long. A slogan I’ve coined for myself is, “I want to be ready to die tomorrow, yet able to live past 100.” By “ready,” I mean that my personal affairs are in order so I don’t leave a mess behind for my loved ones to sort out after I die. “Able to live past 100” is another way of saying that I want to know how to enjoy being an older adult. In a word: THRIVE.