I feel horrible for Mike... I feel even worse for his wife Ann...
Mike is an elderly gentleman in his mid-seventies and I’ve known Mike now for about 25 years.
We were once neighbors, back when he owned a wholesale florist business and I was running an electronic distributor business in the mid-1980’s.
Mike eventually sold his business to a couple of young guys. He really enjoyed working at the business but the cash offer was just too good to pass up.
So Mike retired to a life of leisure... he had time... he had financial resources... life was good...
Ann, his wife of some 25 years, was much younger than Mike and wanted to keep working at her job at the bank... so she did.
After six months of retirement... Mike was miserable... nothing to do all day except to be alone in his thoughts.
We had lunch one day and Mike confessed that he was going stir-crazy sitting home alone... he needed something to do each day... so I asked him if he would consider working with me down at my office perhaps a few days a week...
"Let’s give it a try for a few weeks and see what happens", I suggested.
A few days a week... soon turned into a full-time position... as he was generally the first person in the door and one of the last to leave.
The opportunity to work together was good for both Mike and me. He did whatever he could to help... accounting... filing... answering phones... customer service... counting and sorting in the warehouse...
He also provided me with some well-meaning mentoring... never in an intrusive way... but rather only when he saw that I was having a difficult time with a particular issue. His business guidance proved to be incredibly helpful to me during some very stressful times... in almost a "fatherly" way, he provided me with some sound advice that seemed to calm the waters in raging storms that surrounded me.
Shortly after his 70th birthday, I began to notice a change in Mike. He was no longer able to accomplish simple tasks in a timely manner. Sorting a stack of invoices or creating mailing labels was now seemingly an all-day affair.
I also became more aware of his forgetfulness. He would accidentally leave a customer on hold or would forget the password to log onto the computer system... even though it hadn’t been changed in several years.
I also began to worry about his safety... driving to and from the office each day...
Our initial trial period of a few weeks had turned into seven years... but now it was time to end the business relationship that we had formed...
We discussed the situation as grown men and decided that it was best if he retired for good...
I felt horrible about "sending him off to pasture" that day... but I also had to remember that there was a business to run and that it was probably best for the both of us... but in the end we both felt as though we had let the other down.
The fear of forgetting
This summer marked the five-year anniversary of Mike’s retirement.
I thought that it might be a great idea if we had a "reunion" of present and former employees (those former employees who left on good terms that is... those who didn’t leave on their own terms are probably still sticking pins in Jim Kalb voodoo dolls).
There were about 25 people who met at a local Mexican restaurant on that Sunday afternoon in July. We were all so happy to see one another again... it was great catching up with everyone’s lives and laughing about the "good-old times" that we once shared.
Ann brought Mike to the restaurant that afternoon. He didn’t recognize any of us and often called us by names other than our own. Mike spoke to me in Spanish thinking perhaps I was one of the workers from his original flower business.
I talked briefly to Ann. She had left her position at the bank to take care of Mike on a full-time basis. I could hear in her voice and see in her face that she was physically exhausted and mentally drained. It must be incredibly painful to watch a loved one ever so slowly slipping away from you.
Ann told me that there are good days and not so good days for Mike. She seems so patient with him. He often feels remorseful that she needs to do so much to help him.
Growing old and dying has never bothered me too much... it’s the way nature intended it to be... one of the great truths of life.
... but outliving my mind terrifies me.
To place a great burden on others by having their lasting memories be that of a bumbling idiot... unable to remember the ones that I love and the ones who love me... is a terrible way to erode life.
Exercises for the body and mind
They say that 50 is the new 40...
This isn’t just a clever bumper sticker... there appears to be some semblance of truth in the statement.
Unlike our forefathers, today we have a much better understanding of the relationship between health, exercise, and nutrition and the way our bodies grow old with age. Our quality of life is becoming ever more important to us as we prepare ourselves for the winter of our lives.
Golf has given way to cycling as I regularly see septuagenarians and octogenarians (70 and 80 year olds) peddling bicycles around town on a Saturday or Sunday morning trying to remain healthy.
Yoga and aerobics classes are filled with retirees looking to keep themselves fit and limber.
However, in addition to exercising our bodies, we should be working equally as hard to keep our brains fit.
Scientists in a new discipline called Neuroplasticity have discovered that the brain can actually grow stronger, regardless of age, through a rigorous mental training process.
Research scientists from respected universities such as Harvard, Stanford, UC Berkley, Columbia, and the University of Michigan have come together to form the Human Cognitive Project (HCP) to study the effects of "brain training".
The scientists of the HCP have discovered that some simple training in five areas of brain functions could significantly increase the effectiveness and longevity of the brain.
These five areas include: Attention, Flexibility, Memory, Problem Solving and Speed.
The objective of HCP was to create a series of training exercises that increase brain function in these five areas. The result was an easy to use web-based program that effectively trains the brain to perform better.
The result is a website that is called Lumosity and it provides fun tools for brain-training.
I encourage the readers to follow the link to check out what Lumosity has to offer. It may very well change the trajectory of your life.
At the end of our "reunion" lunch, I gave Ann a big bear hug and offered my assistance in any way I could help. She agreed to call me soon... but she still hasn’t...
I think that I’ll call her this weekend just to let her know that I was thinking about her and Mike this weekend...
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