Amy Trice discovered retirement can be both unexpectedly challenging and unexpectedly fulfilling. That’s something Tim Nordstrom, who has been a pastor for 45 years and chaplain at Good Samaritan Society–Kissimmee Village in Florida for the past 11, has seen many people experience. Here are his insights into coping with the life changes of aging:
Make plans. “Many people don’t want to face the changes that come with aging,” Nordstrom says. “But you need to plan for the future.” Think about what you want to do if your health declines or you need to downsize, as well as at the end of your life. Don’t be afraid to discuss your preferences with your family.
Let yourself grieve. Even when the change is something you’ve looked forward to and planned for, such as retiring or moving into a senior community, “aging usually means you’re giving up something you’ve had for a long time: a job, a home, a neighborhood,” Nordstrom says. “It’s normal to feel grief with loss.” Give yourself time to grieve.
Engage with others. Research has shown that social interaction has a positive impact on health and wellbeing for older adults. Keep in touch with longtime friends. Put effort into making new friends too, connecting through common interests or experiences. “My wife and I have a New Beginnings group for people who have lost a spouse or are single,” Nordstrom says. “We meet regularly to have a meal and play games together. People often stay late just to talk.”
Find comfort in your faith. Go to services. Pray. Meditate. Read the Bible. Nordstrom frequently turns to Proverbs 3:5–6 (“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths”) and Hebrews 13:5 (“…be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’”). Other verses he suggests: Psalm 23, John 14, Romans 8:28, Isaiah 41:10 and Jeremiah 29:11.
Seek out a new way to serve. “Growing older can be difficult,” Nordstrom says. “It takes courage. Remember that God still has a purpose for you.” Nordstrom has noticed that a number of Kissimmee Village residents “have found their way in this new chapter of life by doing what they’re interested in. Some lead Bible study. Some volunteer at local schools or at a place for sick children. Some visit people in our health-care center.”
Visit good-sam.com/guideposts to hear more from Tim Nordstrom on dealing with grief as we age.