When you ask most people what they fear about getting older, they usually mention Alzheimer’s, a lack of financial stability or losing someone close to them.
These are all important issues, but, after talking with the women in our community, I am convinced that one of the most significant challenges that we face as older women is finding meaning in our lives.
As younger women, our lives are defined, at least in part, by our social relationships, career aspirations and family ties. As we get a little older, we find ourselves searching for new sources of meaning.
Our search is made all the more urgent by the fact that many of us have a subconscious feeling that we are “running out of time.” Logically, we know that we may have 20-30 years ahead of us, but, it doesn’t feel that way.
So, today, I want to talk about an activity that can help you to stay social, make the world a better place, help you find new sources of meaning in your life and, most importantly, find happiness. I’m talking, of course, about mentoring.
Here are a few of the many ways that being a mentor can improve your life in your 60s.
In today’s chaotic world, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the events around us. Every day, it seems like we hear about another tragedy that we cannot control – an earthquake in a faraway country, millions of refugees looking for a new home and violence in our own city or state.
In a world filled with tragedy, it’s easy to forget that we don’t need to change the world to change someone’s life. We may not be able to alter human nature, but, we can alter someone’s future.
When I talk to women in our community who volunteer with kids, mentor teenagers or support young entrepreneurs, they tell me that they receive so much satisfaction from seeing people succeed. As a mentor, every smile is precious, every success is significant and every experience shared is meaningful.
Of course, being a mentor is not all roses. Not everyone is ready to hear your advice. Some people carry too much weight to be lifted up by one person. But, at least being a mentor gives you the chance to make a difference and, sometimes, that’s all that matters.
One of the biggest threats to our health as we get a little older is social isolation. I’m not talking about “being alone.” There are plenty of women our age, including myself, who love our independence. No, I’m talking about the kind of loneliness that sinks into your soul and prevents you from finding happiness.
I’m not sure why, but, many women I know aren’t motivated enough by the pursuit of their own happiness to get out into the world. But, when you give them the opportunity to help other people, they come to life.
When you become a mentor, you join a group of like-minded people. Sometimes, you will form a friendship with the person that you are mentoring. But, even if this doesn’t happen, you will have opportunities to talk with other people who are making a difference in the world.
Working with young people gives you the opportunity to see their world through their eyes. This is true whether you are volunteering at a local school, or helping a young entrepreneur to start their business.
Many women have told me that, while they started out wanting to improve the lives of young people, they ended up learning more about life than they could have imagined.
If, as Jim Roan said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” shouldn’t we all have a few young people in our lives?
If you are interested in mentoring, I encourage you to look for organizations in your local area. You can also use websites like Mentoring.org to look for opportunities to get involved.
Do you know someone who has become a mentor? What was their experience? Where do you think are the best places to look for mentoring opportunities? What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about being a mentor for the first time? Please join the conversation.