Maintaining Relevance


“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?” ~ Satchel Paige

At a recent professional conference a keynote invited those present to publicly share what they feared. A colleague in her late 60’s responded “losing relevance.”

What would your response have been?

As a trailing-edge boomer, I cross paths with many people who are thinking about “retirement.” Note I said thinking about, not necessarily planning for it. What I find fascinating is that, more and more, those giving intentional thought to active lifestyle change are open to doing something besides playing board games or painting (not to disparage either). They seek increased engagement.


I have yet to hear anyone at this life stage say they want to be bored. Or to become insignificant. Most people want to create and strengthen meaningful connections and to broaden their community. They have the energy and drive to explore and effect change; they’re just unsure what to do next.


For those interested in doing something entirely new, the possibilities are boundless – often limited only by their own beliefs and stories. For those open to discovering and experiencing something unfamiliar, here are five popular gigs that “retirees” are stepping into and enjoying:

  • Tour Guide Operator – allows a coupling of personal travel interests with social interaction and exercise
  • Virtual Assistant – as the title implies, the work can be done virtually and you get to determine what assistance you provide
  • Uber Driver – an opportunity to meet new people, see new vistas, and you define your personal workload
  • Peace Corp Volunteer – seven percent of volunteers are aged 50+. A new adventure with a humanitarian focus where you can share accumulated wisdom and experience, often benefiting the less fortunate
  • Tutor – anyone, of any age. People love to learn. Sometimes they simply need another caring individual to help them navigate new subject matter.


What you choose to do next could easily keep you pertinent. It need not be a complex undertaking. A willingness to play in some initial uncertainty might be the very stimulation you seek… maybe it could become vastly rewarding.

There are numerous ways in which to maintain one’s relevance. And not just as “retirement” approaches. Β Here are three to consider:

  1. Stay curious. Welcome learning and acquire knowledge any way you can. Share your discoveries with others. In doing so, you show you are willing to try new things, even (gasp!) methods considered outside the box.
  2. Meet new people. Negative friends drain us. Positive friends propel us forward. Our possibilities can be limited by our current ‘network.’ Rejuvenating your network is an important part of staying relevant.
  3. Get your hearing checked. Seriously. Not being able to hear potentially puts you out of touch with people. As we age we tend to deny natural loss of hearing. Eventually younger people shut out the hearing challenged and move conversations elsewhere. One must hear to remain relevant.

60 thoughts on “Maintaining Relevance

      • Thanks Eric, it would seem that blogging is an excellent pursuit for those who have physical restrictions, such as disabilities, chronic illnesses, or the inevitably limiting effects of old age, and yet who are active in mind and are outward looking. It has the great boon of enabling one to tap into different societal groups, and different cultures, even. Still, I am rather preaching to the converted here, I think! πŸ™‚

      • Indeed, an excellent if not ideal pursuit, Hariod. My mother, who will celebrate her 85th birthday next week, is still blessed with mental acuity. She intentionally exercises her mind regularly. And she chooses to remain engaged, in manner and matters that she can – grateful for the opportunities she has. Blogging, especially in this WordPress community is rich. The connections, cultural/intellectual and social exchanges (to your comment) it enables are truly valuable.

  1. Wonderful Advice Eric… I am never busier since retiring and I am as old as I feel.. πŸ™‚ Some days I am a spring chicken.. And other days the old hen, all depending on how much weeding got done LOL πŸ™‚

    Always enjoy your philosophy on life Eric.

    Blessings Sue

  2. LOOOOOOOOOVE THIS. We should never stop learning or growing. There is only one time when we stop – and frankily we should not stop after that. My mother had her first heart attack and triple by pass at 70 years old. Then, after recovery she joined me in my volunteer work as a data inputter into sage accounting – never done any accounting before, or used sage. Actually, I thought her how to use computers and word when she was 40 – she is of that era where women were home keeps and not career women. She had many jobs when we where young, from a wind assistant to working in a pharmacy – she learnt all job in and out . So at 72 she had another heart attack followed by a pacemaker, we still volunteer two days a week doing our data entry, she has resumed occasionally driving – as you can. She goes to the gym – for light exercise cause exercise should not stop at any age, she read – oh god she is well read, and don’t start on the politic and Brexit (should UK be in Europe or Out) what lively debates we have. she is a fantastic cook – she is the one who forces me to go to the GYM – can you imagine .. Clearly she is my super star , my inspiration.

    There are years of wisdom with age and us young ones need to respect that. Of course, there are those who never want to learn what ever their age – so it is not automatic fact wisdom with age – it depends on how engaged you are with life.

    How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?” ~ Satchel Paige love the quote. The soul is forever young, only the body gets old

    Love the post – sorry for the long comment.

  3. I think some days I’m very old but mostly I’m just a young one of no particular age. I’d not go back in time for anything as life is indeed great at present, but I do believe we need to prepare for lifes changes a good while before they arrive.
    With blogging, swim teaching, golfing and gardening as my favourite activities I think I should be good into old age, or old age on paper anyway.

    • I agree with you, Tric… the choices you make to remain active and thus, relevant, are commendable. And yes, I also concur that it can be helpful (if not essential) to anticipate some life changes and give thought to how we might/will address them when they present.

  4. I think that fear probably flows through far more than retirement, Eric, albeit in different form. For instance I struggle at times with spending my time appropriately now, and cultivating meaningful connections with others, at a time when work can at times be so consuming. But I can see the relevance– ha ha!– of that particular form of the fear to retirement. I think we all deeply desire to be known, and to interact meaningfully with others, and perhaps should attend to this need in conscious ways at every phase of our lives… I see this as a very important and relevant topic, my friend, to all of us.


    • As is often the case, you have gleaned the post’s essence, Michael. It is not simply about apprehensions around retirement; it *is* about the challenges in and with cultivating meaningful connections with others. Points for acknowledging the difficulties and thus, the struggle when other facets of life can be so consuming. Yet given/possessing such awareness, one would think some could revisit their priorities and actions such that they contribute to the relevance sought; retired or not. Thank you for your thoughtful insights.

    • I like that mantra, Linda, whether it was intended or not: Boredom no, relevance yes! πŸ™‚ When we realize the power within our own stories, (I would think) the odds of our relevance increases. Appreciate your thoughtful comment.

    • Thank you, Debbie. I am warmed that you caught the significance of the reference to: …being willing to play in an initial level of uncertainty. That is both relevant and key to stretching ourselves and stepping outside our comfort zones. Your blessings appreciated and returned!

  5. I hope to celebrate my 85th birthday on August 10th, 2016. I have wrestled with many of the quandaries and topics such as presented in your post, Eric, and as commented beautifully by commentators here! Today, I present the buds of an important topic to develop, PRIORITIZING. I have made a list of 200 things that I find indispensable to experience, to accomplish, to think about. I conclude that there is NO QUANTITATIVE WAY to assign a true numeric value of what is better to do. We are so finite in available time to put something into action, compared with what seems to be an infinite wealth of what we can love, attend to, or how we can love. The task is mercurial, always depending on context, e.g., our age, health & energy at the moment, and/or people we are connected with at any time. A QUALITATIVE, DESCRIPTIVE STYLE OF THINKING seems more practical. For example, I have loved music since I was a young 5 year-old when tears came to my eyes after touching two keys on the piano and discovered the beauty of the musical chord. Three years ago I began taking piano lessons, reached some simple proficiency as playing with both hands, but had to give up spending time on piano so that I would be able to attend to my wife’s emerging health problems. I have continued, with moderate success dealing with our health problems. A great example is that an orthopedic surgeon told me I needed a knee replacement, but I was lucky that the book edited by Ingrid Kohlstadt , Chapter 8, of SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE FOR MUSCULOSKELETAL, BARIATRIC AND SPORTS NUTRITION educated me about the importance of nutritional hydration requirements of knee cartilage. My right knee now functions near- perfectly, and the only days I feel knee pain is when weather conditions prevail for feeling arthritis.

    • Beautiful words and experiences, Joseph. Thank you for creating time to share them here. I know there are many people who are fans and practitioners of qualitative versus quantitative thinking and lifestyles. It is a choice we can individually acknowledge and make. Here’s to the knowledge you are accumulating and applying to continue living with moderate success. At 85, you seem to be highly aware and grateful for that with which you are blessed. Onward, good sir!

  6. In my work I meet many people who feel they are irrelevant. Your suggestions are spot on. Hearing, truthfully, is a huge one. I see so many people try to or actually take over a person’s interactions because they can no longer hear (well or at all). And those who feel most irrelevant…succumb to someone else taking over and speaking for them.

    • In addition to the importance of hearing, Colleen, I believe there is the matter of respect that must be applied when interacting with people who are or believe they are irrelevant. Respect, courtesy and kindness are essential when we seek to augment anyone’s view of their own relevance. Excellent observations, yours. Thank you.

    • Spirit, heart, soul… whatever one aligns with, yes! Val. Nurturing it/them is cornerstone to how one lives out their years. As well, I would add, to anyone at any life stage. A very good point you share. Thank you.

    • I love that mind-set, WW! Feeling like anything is possible. My mother will celebrate her 85th birthday later this month and she epitomizes what you share. Thank you and best wishes for your continued wellness and relevance.

  7. Great post, Eric! And I so agree with what you say. A meaningful activity, whether for pay or not, whether “artistic” in some way or not will keep us both feeling and being relevant!

  8. Very timely and helpful post, Eric! I worked for a pension plan for 8 years and one of the trends we noted each year was how differently people were viewing retirement. With increasing lifespans and advanced healthcare, people are really starting to look at their retirement years as a time to do something new – to serve people, to give back.

    • Pleased to learn that the post was/is timely and helpful Fazeena. Indeed, as the boomer cohort shifts into what society refers to as ‘retirement’ (though now a fluid concept), there is a discernible shift towards, as you reference, serving people and giving back. People who are becoming more chronologically gifted are also very keen on creating lasting legacies that differ measurably from legacies of past generations. This is a fascinating and encouraging development. Thank you for sharing your personal experience and perspective.

  9. An excellent article Eric. The problem with retirement – as I see – is that we spend the vast part of our lives defining our value / relevance by the work we do or the job we have and I think society adds to that perception. What’s one of the first questions that people ask when they first meet you? – what do you do? When you say you’re retired, the conversation ends very quickly – we run the risk of being invisible in retirement. I wanted a new narrative to that question.

    I struggled in the first year with what my next *career* was going to look like and wandered aimlessly because I was still attached to my old paradigms. It was only after I let the ‘old Joanne’ go and embraced the creative side I had never explored before, that I started to truly have fun.

    Sorry for the long comment.

    • I appreciate long comments. πŸ™‚ Thank you for creating time to share your poignant observations and experiences, Joanne. And you are right… what society adds…old paradigms…and never exploring. All factors in what we do (or do not do) and how we choose or decline to step into some discomfort and discover what can still be! Bravo on letting the ‘old Joanne’ go. The liberating feeling that accompanied that choice must be wonderful! Onward, with endless possibilities and potential relevance.

  10. Great advice…. it is all about maintaining relevance as you have well highlighted… I guess that doing things and keeping socially and creatively active are the keys…
    Sending all my best wishes, dear Eric. Aquileana πŸ”†.-

    • The activities and terms we can align with maintaining relevance could be limitless, Aquileana. What is meaningful is that more and more people are choosing to make their lives relevant. They are living, if not thriving! Finally, for some. And therein lies beauty, nurturing and significance. Always appreciate your insights and comments. Thank you.

  11. Growing older and older, I always fear “retiring” the things I do now. I would joke around to people that I’d earn so much money and have a driver to take me places wherever I pleased. Ahihihi πŸ˜€ But yeah, it does make sense. I’ve seen so many aged people that are still out and about all over the place, being tour guides, hiking the same trails I hike, working, some of them still driving! They inspire me just like this post.

    • As if you were old, Rommel. πŸ™‚ It’s got to be uplifting to see older people out and about, hiking some of the same amazing trails and paths that you do. Keep in mind that your presence may be just as inspiring to them as they are to you. Decades from now when you get closer to ‘retiring’ you can appreciate the wisdom you are accumulating and experiencing right now. πŸ™‚

  12. As a first-time commenter, here, I might as well supply a “Map of My Personal Journey,” please see Google at: Joseph Rubin Southfield Publisher

    • Thank you, Joseph. How interesting that you have mapped your personal journey. While many of us are traveling our own unique journey, some may have missed an opportunity to craft such a chronology. Well done.

    • I inadvertently overlooked this comment, JoNell. I suspect many of us not only want to feel that we are relevant… but that we truly are. We often overlook what we are doing to contribute to the betterment of other people’s lives (if not a greater community) and in doing so, we are adding relevance and being relevant. You don’t need encouragement; perhaps all you require is your own, appreciated definition of what is relevant. πŸ™‚

    • Brian, how timely to hear from you! Thank you for creating a meaningful moment to reach out. My last six months have been some of the most challenging in my life and much not in a positive or encouraging way. What may be God’s light and love shining could joyfully blanket me tomorrow morning. I haven’t prayed so hard in decades. Thank you for keeping my requests and petitions in your thoughts. Much love your way, friend.

      • Eric, great to hear from you. I’m so sorry to hear of the difficult times! Praying for God’s blessings and mercy to bring you peace, my friend. If there’s anything else I can do, just let me know. He has a plan and a purpose for everything, I hope the challenging part of that plan for your life passes through soon, so you can experience joy to the fullest. Appreciate you, Eric! Keep smiling. πŸ™‚

      • I know He has a plan and purpose for everything. Accepting that is what yields calm in my life right now, even though yesterday’s turning point did not unfold as we had hoped. Life goes on and there is abundant joy awaiting. Thanks for your thoughtful words and prayers, Brian. Wishing you a week filled with gratitude.

      • Eric, just checking in to see how this week is going. I’m sorry to hear about the result not being what you had hoped in your previous message. Glad to hear that you’re already sensing the joy that is to come. Rooting for you, my friend. You’re one of the good ones. Hope you smile often this coming week. πŸ™‚

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