Making a Difference in Retirement and Old Age

Key Concept

In our post-retirement life we have the opportunity to pass on our knowledge and expertise to make a difference in someone’s life. That may be 1 someone or a million someones – and it is the possibility of that difference that will get you out of bed every day. Purpose is the value you continue to bring to those around you.


On completion of this module you will have identified what will give your retirement meaning and purpose?

How do I make a difference in my Retirement?

If you live for only 5 years post-retirement, golf every day is a very attractive option. If you live for 25 years post-retirement, golf isn’t going to sustain you. So the question is - “What is going to get me out of bed every day and what is going to fill those hours before I get back into bed?”

Related to this is another question – “How do I add value? One way is to keep on working. Another is to be of service. Depending on your circumstances this could be paid or unpaid. For some, payment might come through consulting, for others, through a hobby or skill that has developed over the years. For those who don’t need payment, their value may come through volunteering or charity work. Already, retirees add $illions to world economies. And for the rich, there is philanthropy.

Some are fortunate, they have discovered their passion. Others have not. Perhaps we were working too hard to stop and take stock. Perhaps we were so hooked into being good providers that we failed to provide for ourselves.

When we look at the world we can be overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done and it’s easier to run for cover and hide from the world. But in our 60s,  70s and 80s we have wisdom, experience, knowledge and the ability to make things happen.

It is us who created the world the way it is – so who better than us to “fix” it. After all, a key element of the Elder’s Journey is to make amends!

I think some people may find their passion quite easily – a deeply felt sense of injustice or an interest that’s been calling loudly for a number of years. For some they can trace their passion back to their childhood. For most of us it is something that creeps up on us, a quiet but insistent voice. The power of meditation is that it quietens our mind so that we can hear that voice. In our careers we are so busy running and “doing” stuff that our mind is overwhelmed with “noise” – so it’s no wonder that our passion stays hidden (if it surfaced early it would get tainted by the busy-ness around us). So perhaps we are now creating the conditions that will allow our passion to reveal itself.   Viereck Merrilees

To help you rekindle that passion, go to Making A Difference.

And if, at the end of looking through those lists you are no clearer about finding where you can make a difference – don’t fuss. So many business Gurus have been telling us that we can achieve anything if we follow our passion – and when we don’t know what our passion is we go on a guilt trip. So start small.

You might find this guide by Henri Junttila useful to get the juices flowing.

Finding your Passion Written by Henri Junttila

1. Ask your Higher Self

This can be as simple as focusing on your breath to silence your mind, and then asking yourself what your passion is and what you are meant to do in this lifetime.

2. Listen to your Heart

Your heart knows more about you than your mind. Listen to your heart and follow your excitement.

3. Look into your Past

What did you like to do when you were a child? When we are young, we have no inhibitions, and we get to do almost anything we want.

4. Brainstorm

A great exercise is to write ‘What is My Passion?’ at the top of a clean sheet of paper, and start writing down anything that comes to mind. Push yourself and try to come up with at least 20 to 30 answers. The first few will be easy, the last few more difficult and are likely to come straight from your heart.

5. Consult your Fears

What are you secretly afraid of doing but want to do?

6. What comes easy to you?

We all have a set of skills and talents. This doesn't have to be something you went to school for or something that you've been trained in. Have you ever been told you're talented at a specific task?

7. What would you do If …

What would you do if you had all the security in the world? Where would your heart take you?

8. What do you like?

Think about what you like to learn about, and what you would like to immerse yourself in if you had more time.

9. Eliminate Excuses

Excuses are poison. Never let yourself make any excuses about why you cannot go after something - excuses exist only in your mind.

10. Make the Choice

Once you make a choice, start taking small steps towards the fulfillment of that choice

11. Never Give Up

The most common reason most people aren't following their passion is because they gave up before they even had the chance to succeed.

Finding your Purpose


Finding my Purpose

From passion comes purpose. Go to Finding my Purpose.

The secular definition of vocation (purpose) usually implies only income producing activity – vocations to business, and brick-laying, art and aviation, soldiering and science. A broader definition encompasses homemaking, parenthood, gardening and globe-trotting – to any activity or condition, no matter how poetic or prosaic. (P66 A World waiting to be Born. M Scott Peck)

My life in context

  • Do I believe in God, a Higher Power, Universal Intention - something bigger than myself?
  • Why are we here on this lump of rock on the outer-reaches of the Milky Way?
  • Why do we as a species exist?
  • Why am I here? Why now?
  • Am I no more significant than some bacterium? Born / Live / Die ...  Gone!
  • Or is there more to my existence? If there is, what is it?
  • Is it about my career? Producing a family? Just getting through life?
  • What's the purpose of everything I've learned?
  • What will give my life meaning?
  • How can I be of service to someone else?

Everything comes down to your purpose. What value can you as an elder person bring to the world?

  • What can you do / give / teach?
  • How can you be significant in the life of others – how will you be remembered, and for what?
  • Who have you been / who are you being ?

Do a quick review of your life – when you consider the things you have done, which of them gave you the greatest satisfaction. They are a clue to your passion and purpose now. Go back in time; what were you obsessed with when you were 8 years old, 10 years old, 12 years old? Often that obsession still lives within us. When you were a young adult what were the things you used to argue for (and against)? What is it now that gets you fired-up; when you read the newspaper what are the stories and the issues that grab your attention? All of these things talk to your passion and through your passion, to your purpose.

"To 'want' and to be ambitious and to 'want' to be successful is not enough. That's just desire. To know what you want, to understand why you are doing it, to dedicate every breath in your body to achieve ... If you feel that you have something to give, if you feel that your particular talent is worth developing, is worth caring for, then there is nothing you can't achieve." Kevin Spacey.

Finding your purpose isn’t just a polite exercise to be “toyed with lightly” – it is central to the quality of life you will enjoy as you get older. So much research points to the same components of successful aging

  • Active engagement in social and productive activities
  • Goal directedness
  • Flexibility in thinking
  • High mental functioning
  • A strong sense of meaning

Viktor Frankl, the famous psychiatrist and neurologist, was Jewish prisoner number 199 104 at Auschwitz and Dachau from 1944 to 1945. “In those camps, prisoners were deprived of everything which, in normal circumstances, contributes to a sense of psychological well-being, dignity and worth. Having something to live for was what enabled prisoners to hold onto the will to live in circumstances that made death seem like a solution.”

As human beings we are primarily motivated by a will to meaning.”

Viktor Frankl; Man’s search for Meaning

Even in extreme old age and frailty we can find meaning in our life. A new born child is helpless and dependent, yet he or she brings great joy and happiness to the parents, and in some societies, to the whole community. As we become frail we dread becoming dependent, yet people who do care-work for the aged, talk of the huge joy and satisfaction they get from caring for people in their final days. So even then, we can find meaning! We have the opportunity to bring fulfillment to the life of our Carer.

Leaving a Personal legacy

That legacy can be tangible, it can be in the form of support for others and the creation of a better life for one or for many. In the world we have created, there is poverty, greed, corruption, starvation, slavery and every kind of human misery. There is climate change, pollution, resource depletion and waste. Family is under threat with absentee fathers, ill disciplined youth, drug abuse and violence. All this, in the name of growth and increased consumption - driven by our Ego! To be better than the Joneses, to have the latest, the best, the most.

But for our generation, our need for Ego-pimping is over – if it ain’t pimped now it’s never going to be. We’ve made our mark, demonstrated that we can make things happen, so we don't have to prove anything.

Your Legacy could be the taking care of a play-park in your community, so that kids have a safe place to play. It could be helping to feed the impoverished at a Soup Kitchen or it could be the passing on of your skills and expertise to the next generations.

Or it could be intangible – and therein lies our greatest value. Everyone craves acknowledgement.  Elders, through questioning and listening “acknowledge” the ideas and dreams of the young and offer a calmer, deeper wisdom. How many children and young adults didn’t receive the acknowledgement they needed because of absentee fathers and too-busy mothers?  An Elder has the time to listen - and the attention of a caring Elder is very, very valuable.

And for some, their Legacy could be in the form of a trust or a foundation that could have a major impact around the world. For that you would need guidance – how involved do you want to be? What form will your involvement take?

Developing a Trust or Foundation - Strategy



This Model is taken from Citadel Wealth Management’s Philanthropy Strategy


Achieving what you want

It’s one thing to plot and plan, but often our plans come to nothing or achieve less than we hoped for; our intention is good, but our execution falls short of what we wanted. What we expect to achieve is often less than we intended and that is because of limiting beliefs we have about ourselves. To get some insight into this, go to these notes on Achieving the Results you want.

Discussion Assignment – Defining your Purpose

Where can you put your Elder energy – what will give your life meaning and purpose?

Alternatively – in our goal directed society it is easy to beat yourself up if you don’t feel a passion for something – so give yourself permission to not know. So tell us about that – your thoughts will resonate with others who also don’t know. Maybe you just want to bake your own bread!

Describe what will give your life meaning and purpose.


What difficulty are you having in clarifying your purpose?

Discussion Forum

Next module - Your Physical Health

Your physical health defines the basis of your life in retirement, it's crucial to your enjoyment of these years. It ultimately determines everything you want to do – try the 6 Exercise test in this next Module and see how you’re doing.

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