OurLife: Ramsey column – Seniors should keep asking “What’s next?”

By Bob Ramsey

Contributing writer

I’ve written about Elliott Royce before. He was the older gentleman who peddled around St. Louis Park wearing a Dr. Seuss hat. Well into his nineties, Royce worked out each week on the trampoline, taught classes on how to fall safely, traveled to Israel to visit family members, remained active in community affairs and continued to look for new things to do. Fellow Rotarian Jim Rhodes once observed, “While most people his age are settling down, Elliott keeps asking, ‘What’s next?’” It’s a question we should all ask ourselves at every age.

After all, it’s what’s next that pulls us into the future. Without something else to do or look forward to, we’re merely living dead.

One of the secrets of successful aging is to remain curious about what’s next. It helps if what’s next is something new and different: a new goal; a new project; a new idea; a new friend; a new relationship; a new destination; a new author; a new recipe; a new job; or a new volunteer opportunity.

If what’s next is always the “same-ol’, same-ol’,” your life is on hold. You’re aging in place and missing out on a lot of cool possibilities. On the other hand, trying new things, now and then, can help keep you more youthful. John Barrymore may have said it best: “A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.”

We’re never too old to explore something unfamiliar. Someone once told me there’s a little bit of Columbus in all of us. With a little help, we can all set out in search of something unknown or untried. We may not know exactly where we’re going, but it will be an adventure; it may even be historic.

In his popular book, Life Reimagined, Richard Leider says each of us is an “experiment of one.” Of course, we’re not much of an experiment if there is no element of surprise, revelation, discovery or the unexpected.

Leider goes on to say, “Life Reimagined is a call to live our lives with purpose and connection as we answer the ‘What’s next?’ question.”

The power of what’s next lies in the fact that it is a choice. This is where seniors have an advantage. Older adults have more voice in this choice than other age groups.

For much of our lives, the choice of what’s next is dictated and determined by others, including parents, teachers, drill sergeants, spouses, supervisors and even, our own children. But people 50, 60, 70 and beyond have increasing opportunities to name what comes next. Of course, many of us just keep choosing the same thing over and over. WE can do better. Aging shouldn’t be just more of the same.

There are a lot of important questions in life. But “what’s next?” may be the most compelling. That’s why famed motivator, Zig Ziegler admonished “Will you look back on life and say, ‘I wish I had or I’m glad I did?’”

So— what’s next?!

Bob Ramsey is a lifelong educator, freelance writer and advocate for vital aging. He can be contacted at 952-922-9558 or by email at [email protected]