The proverb "Where there is no vision, the people perish" is true for us as individuals, as well. To live vitally in the second half of life, we must have a vision of what's ahead. Of course, as our past grows longer, it's easier and easier to get caught up in it. And yet it is precisely because our past becomes weightier that our vision for the future must be more uplifting.
"Imagination is everything," wrote Albert Einstein. So when we are contemplating our vision for the second half of life, it makes a huge difference to imagine a world of new elder models. We want to think outside the gray box of traditional elderhood and envision people who are being the sort of new elders we aspire to be.
Who is living the second half of life in the way you most admire or envy? Who is doing the kind of work you most wish you could be doing? Imagine what their day-to-day vocational experience must be like. What do they have in their personal relationships that you wish you could have in yours?
What would you be doing if you were ten times more courageous in the second half of your life than you were in the first? Where would you be living? With whom? At 90 years old, how would you answer the question "What are you most proud of in your life?"
New elders are people who have asked and answered questions like this in their own ways. They give us new models of aging to which we can aspire in the second half of our lives. We can identify in them certain characteristics that we would like for ourselves. Their courage, commitment, and vitality can be an inspiration as we envision our own futures. Consider people who have and who continue to challenge old ideas of what it means to be old. People like astronaut John Glenn returning to space at age 77. Singer Lena Horne still touring at 85. Rolling Stone Mick Jagger still rocking at age 60. Writer Gore Vidal still crafting insightful provocative essays at age 75. Choreographer George Ballanchine still making dance in his 80s. Actor Clint Eastwood writing, directing, and performing at age 73. Philosopher Bertrand Russell protesting on the streets against the Vietnam war in his 90s. Mother Theresa still helping the poorest of the poor in India well into her 80s.
Who are your own new elder role models? What new images of aging inspire you?