The Second Half of Life: new territory and big spiritual questions
September 22, 2017|
By Barbara Leonard
Until fairly recently the idea of planning for the second half of life was pretty much tied with retirement at age 65. With increasing longevity, however, many will be active into their 80s and 90s. Financial advisors now suggest waiting to take Social Security benefits later whereas a decade before they encouraged clients to take them at 62 years the first year of eligibility. The Social Security Administration responded to the changing demographic and provided incentives for people to work longer. Industrialized societies have an increasing number of people entering into the second half of life, which will create a lot of change. Let’s hope that it is for the better! Today, given reasonably good health one can anticipate living 15 to 30 years beyond retirement. How does one plan for that length of time? What does one do? How does one serve? Who does one serve?
Social security benefits aside, the 2nd half of life begins much earlier spiritually. Carl Jung described this phenomenon decades ago. Richard Rohr’s book, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Half of Life, addresses 2nd half of life spiritual issues as well. With few exceptions, developmental psychologists focused on the developmental stages of first half of life and much less about adult development. Erikson described two adult stages each with a crisis that must be resolved: Generativity vs. Stagnation and Integrity vs. Despair in old age. Richard Leider, a MN based life-coach has contributed several books on the 2nd half focused on meaning and purpose mostly around retirement. He suggests there are four ways people choose to live into this period of life: Keep working as before, create a life focused on leisure, dwell on their medical concerns, or “refire” their lives with meaning and purpose. In Leider’s view the latter is the preferred choice. Jean Shinoda Boelens, a Jungian psychiatrist, writes about three phases in the life of women, the maiden, the mother and the crone. The crone is the longest phase beginning about age 40.
Given the increase in longevity and relatively sparse literature addressing the 2nd half of life, we find ourselves in new and unexplored territory. Many people in the 2nd half of life are searching for answers to the questions, who am I now and how can I serve? Where is God in all of this 2nd half of life new territory? Like any other stage of life we look to people who demonstrate 2nd stage wisdom. Jimmy Carter comes to mind as an example of one who created a whole new life of service following his failed attempt at a second term as president. Pope Francis comes to mind as an example of one who uses his many gifts and wisdom for the good of the Church and all humanity.
On October 28 we will explore the spirituality of the 2nd half of life! We will approach these questions as individuals and together in a retreat format using scripture and the authors who have ventured into this new territory. (See retreat information below)