In the world of aging, there are three different forms of the “future”: First, there is the future we hoped and planned for; then, the future that is in fact the present; and finally, the future that follows the next year or two.
Earlier in our lives, many made financial plans with the hope we would not have to stand in line at local markets when canned beans went on sale. We took into consideration mortgages, car payments, educational costs, insurances and the usual living costs.
When the future arrived (and became the present), we checked our savings and benefits and made plans based on these realities. Many probably even factored in some inflation and rainy-day funding. (And too many were severely harmed by investments or retirement promises that would never come to fruition.)
The third stage is the one in which we look ahead three to five years and begin to make decisions about where we would like to live, what support systems we will need and what positive events we would like to make happen in our lives. If you could see yourself traveling, where would you like to go? Who would be your travel buddy? Too often, when the idea of travel comes up, people shy away because, “How do I know what my health will be like in two years?”
I know and understand that feeling and it isn’t so very different from the one that whispers, “What if I save all these years and then something catastrophic happens?” Earlier in life, many of us bought life insurance — to “insure” our families, businesses, etc., in the event of our “premature” death. Whether “term” or “whole life,” there was an assurance of some stability even without our presence.
Now, as we age, there is another insurance that helps us plan for the next future. The insurance industry has long had a “travel insurance” that covers a variety of situations, but most importantly, the right policy will reimburse you if, for medical or family emergencies, you are unable to travel. I find this insurance freeing, and its availability helps me to look forward to trips and experiences.
The truth is, any one of us could have died or faced major illness in our 20s, 30s or 60s … but we didn’t die, and we survived the illnesses. The probability of some major setback in our 70s and 80s is certainly more likely, but that’s why we have insurance and faith in the future. And we have family and/or friends to make the non-insurability of real life less frightening.
Fear of the future — common among older adults — also can negate the beauty of the present. Emerson wrote: “He has not learned the lesson of life who does not every day surmount a fear.”
Geographic, intellectual, spiritual and emotional travel broadens our sense of self and our awareness and appreciation for the internal and external world. “The life you have led,” wrote Anna Quindlen, “doesn’t need to be the only one you have!” Insure the deeper meaning of your life by travelling inward and outwardly toward your full self. You are surrounded by insurance or assurance … and growth is promised.
Dr. Albert M. Lewis is rabbi emeritus of Congregation Beth El in Traverse City. He is a public speaker and author of “Soul Sounds: Reflections on Life,” available at www.soulsoundsbook.com. Contact him through the Record-Eagle, 120 W. Front, Traverse City, MI 49684.