Have I lived life to the fullest? Have I accomplished enough? Did I achieve my goals? Have I been able to leave my legacy behind? Should the answer to these questions be a shrug of the shoulders or a plain and simple “no”, then finding purpose in the latter stages of life may prove challenging.

So how can we meaningfully live the last years of our lives? “It’s all about perspective,” said Cenacle Sister Linda Lizada.

“Only when confronted with the thought of death do we think about life.”

Self-acceptance is key, she said. We often think that to be good, we must eliminate the bad. However, everyone has “light and darkness” in them. “Accepting that will help us be better.”

At the ripe old age of 72, Sr Linda has had time to reflect on life since entering her senior years, which she said usually starts when a person reaches 60.

“Today, people are living longer. They need more sustainable ways for them to continue to live their life holistically and with a balance,” she said, adding that many are afraid to slow down even after their bodies tell them to do so for fear of being obsolete.

Sr Linda offered a few suggestions on how seniors can continue to live meaningful lives: cultivate good relationships, engage in activities that nourish the spirit, declare a digital sabbath and giving time to others.

“What I found helpful was to have a good friend to enjoy a variety of good conversations with because they make your social life meaningful,” she said.

Activities that nourish the spirit can help people discover more about themselves, said Sr Linda. She suggested listening to music, getting involved in poetry or reading books that stimulate the mind. Some books she recommends are The
Second Half of Life: Opening the Eight Gates of Wisdom by Angeles Arrien, Aging as a Spiritual Journey by Lewis Richmond and Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: How to Finally, Really Grow Up by James Hollis.

With more seniors becoming tech-savvy, many find solace and comfort online as they get older. Sr Linda encouraged them to not get hooked to online technology and instead to turn to more physical options such as reading a book or meeting a friend.

Lastly, she said giving time to be with others, especially those in nursing homes or under palliative care, can have “mutual benefits”. In her view, the interaction with these people who may be lonely or marginalised can give a person the opportunity to give back to society.

Once involved in some of the suggested activities, Sr Linda said a person will realise a deeper spirituality working in them.

“It is an invitation to the spiritual life, something bigger than our reality. As St Paul said, ‘Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.'” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

One example of this invitation to the spiritual life is a change in the way we pray, said Sr Linda.

Your prayer simply becomes being present with the Lord, a companionship and an intimacy with Him, she said.

Acknowledging there are seniors who have physical or mental limitations and thus may not be able to do certain activities suggested, Sr Linda offered avenues for them and their caregivers to consider such as the Share A Pot programme, a community project initiated by the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

The volunteer-run programme, which is held at Agape Village among other places, brews up nutritious soup, meaningful fun and fitness activities for seniors in the community. An average of about 120 senior citizens attend the weekly programme.

One other avenue is the Young-at-Heart (YAH!) programme by Montfort Care, which promotes a positive mindset towards seniors.

“There is a notion that we become useless when we get older,” said Sr Linda. Getting involved in such programmes that promote meaningful social interaction goes a long way in dispelling that belief, she said.

She added that the younger generation also play a significant role in empowering seniors.

“Listen to the stories they have to share. Don’t wait till they die then say, ‘I wish I had listened to their stories more.'”

With all these insights to share, Sr Linda was recently invited to give a talk at Agape Village in Toa Payoh about how seniors can prepare for the second half of life.

The Feb 22 talk, organised by Caritas Singapore, had the theme Celebrating the Golden Years.

Ms Lorna Tan, Invest Editor with The Sunday Times, was also on hand to highlight the need for retirement planning early in life and to examine whether a person’s CPF or savings will be enough for retirement, and whether one will be able to work during retirement, and issues related to increasing life expectancy.

This article was first published in The Catholic News on Sunday March 10, 2019

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