My father was what you would call a “company man.” He was a wonderful father, a loving husband and a loyal, hard-working leader for a company that employed him for more than 30 years.
One could easily say that my father identified himself as one who liked to work. He enjoyed working and was doing so up to the day he died.
Men in general identify with their work so much that it becomes almost like an inherent portion of their being. “I work because I exist” is the unwritten mantra of the company man. There are many days when I feel this is true for me as well.
Although I have recently changed jobs and work in a whole new industry, I still manage to visit senior living homes each month to meet the residents who live there and bring a little hope, inspiration and joy to them through my music and storytelling.
When you visit assisted living communities and skilled nursing facilities, one observation may immediately strike you – it’s not a man’s world for sure.
Argentum, a leading national association dedicated to supporting companies operating professionally managed resident-centered senior living communities, reports that women outnumber men in assisted living by a ratio of 7 to 1, and the ratio is even higher at nursing homes.
The gender discrepancy in senior living is caused by the fact that women outlive men by an average of six to seven years. Women make up 56 percent of the population over 65 years of age, and they are two-thirds of the population over 85 years. So the question that begs to be asked is: Why do women outlive men?
I believe, and this is just me thinking here, that men identify with their work so much that when retirement finally comes, the man wakes up one morning and declares, “What am I going to do now?”
In a way, men lose their purpose in life when they no longer have their routine of work to lean on. There’s nothing more deflating and depressing than a life without purpose – which can eventually lead to a life without hope.
Women, on the other hand, have been so versatile throughout their lives – they are moms, and many time the dad, too.
They take on such household roles as teacher, nurse, caregiver, housekeeper, organizer, taxi driver, cook, volunteer and not to mention Mom may likely have a full-time job to boot – in essence she does it all.
So when life comes to a point when it’s time to slow down, finding a new purpose in life is not as hard for Mom.
This is why I think women, in general, have an easier time adjusting to retirement life – whether at home or in a senior living community. Many experts will suggest when looking for senior care for your parents to find one that has as much to do for Dad as for Mom.
This is a very good suggestion, but the reality is it is hard to change the overall demographics of a community. A senior residence where men make up 20 percent of the population would be great but is also rare.
Another thought on this subject is to open Dad up to the idea of finding a new purpose in life. Yes, our purpose in life can change over time. Once a warrior for productivity, with some time and help, can turn into a life renewed by grandchildren, civic engagement such as volunteerism in churches, community centers and schools – and let’s not forget about all the prayer warriors we need nowadays.
My good friend George volunteers to read to children in primary school. He’s 80 yearsplus- young and has purpose in his life. Another friend, Pete, volunteers to cook for “Meals on Wheels.” Way to go, George and Pete!
If you have a pulse, you have a purpose, my friends.
Email Rich at SeniorMomentsWithRich@gmail.com.