Ahh, the 70’s. Muhammad Ali, Mark Spitz, Vietnam, China and Watergate. What about Star Wars, disco, Atari and video cassettes? How about the New York City blackout, Kent State and disco? A pretty amazing decade, but, I’m not talking about those 70’s. I’m talking about you and your seventies!
Becoming seventy is far away, maybe 10, 20, 30 or even 40 years off. When it comes, I’m sure you want to be living a great life. There are a few essential ingredients required for that decade to be great; one of them is your independence.
What will give you your independence in your seventies is not what gives you your independence today. The environment you live in will need to be different; you will have to ready it for your arrival. The good news is that there is nothing to invent and no mystery to unravel – it’s already invented and solved. To prepare your environment for ongoing independence you need two words: universal design.
What is universal design? It is an approach to designing products and environments that doesn’t discriminate on the basis of age or ability. It means that a home, for example, can function equally well for a child, an adult, an elder or a person with a physical limitation either temporary or permanent. Right now, we don’t build homes that way; we build homes for one type of person, an able-bodied adult.
Universal design unlocks the gate to living large in your seventies (and many other decades of living) but it doesn’t overcome another rather large obstacle, your fear of aging. Ask me about my seventies and I get squirmy and try to change the subject. I don’t want to think about it. When I do, I don’t have positive associations. I think of slowing down, weakening strength and failing body parts. Shudder! Planning for my seventies? Mañana!
Unfortunately, mañana isn’t a winning formula. Without planning, I’ll stumble into my seventies. I’ll have fewer options. I’ll be treading water to stay afloat rather than living large. The question that emerges is, how can I get excited about taking actions today that won’t seem to matter for years?
There’s a trick.
Begin by remembering an adventuresome vacation you took. There you were, time off from work, where to go? You did your research, talked to friends and, voila, Costa Rica would be your destination! Step two was to hone the plans: pick a hotel, a flight, activities, etc. Finally you book the trip. Excitement bubbled within; you were going to Costa Rica! Did you walk into work the next day all ho-hum? No, you couldn’t wait to tell friends and co-workers about your forthcoming trip! After work, did you just head home? No, you hit the stores and bought snorkeling gear, a fishing rod and some suntan lotion. Hardly a day passed without some excitement and preparation for the coming trip.
It’s the same for your seventies. The only thing that’s different is the destination. Much like a vacation, there is a block of time in your future that’s open and can be planned as you see fit. Begin by imagining what you want it to look like. This is an important step. As you imagine your seventies, be unreasonable. Let nothing hold your imagination back. Be vivid. Be unbridled in your creativity. If you have an idea and it doesn’t excite you or put a smile on your face, cross it off and imagine something else. Keep going until becoming seventy couldn’t happen soon enough.
Good questions to ask yourself during this stage are: Who am I? Am I rich in wealth? Am I rich in spirit? Am I rich in love? Do I live in a warm climate or a cold? City or country? A big community or a small one? Near family or far away?
As this picture of yourself in your seventies emerges, map it out. Write it in a journal, collage it or make a scrapbook of ideas. With a clear picture of your seventies that makes you excited, we now need to work toward the present – is there an action you could take today? Steps from this imagined future toward the present will be large at first and as we get closer to the present, will become smaller. The end of this journey will be the present, and, in this present, you will be clear on an action to take that will bring you toward living large in your seventies.
Let me walk you through it using myself as an example: I’m a New Yorker, but, I have a “hankering” for Montana; I want to be in Montana for my seventies. I’ll have an apartment in New York and will visit frequently. I’m still married to my wife and we have a joyous vibe that attracts lots of visitors. The house is on the North Fork in the Bitterroot valley – lots of trout. I have a big porch that faces west, and, I can drive from the land onto the porch and into the house with my rugged ATV-ish, Smart scooter. For some reason, that picture of seventy really excites me.
Step toward the present, to age sixty. At sixty, I got to have things pretty set up so that ten years out I’m living this dream. I’ll be familiar with Montana having visited for long periods. I’ll be members in local clubs and have my first Montana friends. I’ll know where I want to live and be ready financially to purchase land and a home. I’ll be “shovel ready.”
Jump toward the present another ten years: what do I got to have at fifty so that that vision at sixty is ready? I need to be building equity, I’ll begin visiting Montana regularly, I’ll be in my peak earning years and kids will be all educated freeing up additional capital to set aside.
Jump again toward the present but in a shorter time jump, five years. At 45, what do I got so that the vision at 50 is ready? I’m building my value at work and earning more, I’m buying some of that equity that’s gonna grow, and I’m raising a family. One year from now, I’m finishing my research on being seventy in Montana. How about three months from now? I’m in the middle of my visioning and research. And how about right now? Right now, I’m beginning my research. Right now, I’m Googling universal design and thinking about being seventy in a whole new way.
If at the beginning, I asked you, “What are you doing today so that being seventy is gonna be great?” You might have squirmed, said you had an IRA and changed the subject. Instead, you have a new answer, Google universal design resource and start forming an idea of what you’ll need to keep the independence you love.
Wow. Living large in the seventies is possible – and exciting. When you get there, it will be ready for you. Your independence will be as present as it is today. Opportunities won’t diminish, they’ll continue. Sure, it will all look different. But best of all, you’ll still get to be you.