Having entered the ranks of the elderly and having retired (more or less) has set the wheels of my mind and spirit spinning. I can’t address the woman’s side of this discussion as it seems to be a whole different process. In general, they are frequently younger than their husbands, sometimes significantly. They may continue to work for years beyond their mate, and they generally outlive their mate. Women also are more likely to have a group of girlfriends in their world tending to bond more closely after the death of a spouse.
When a man retires it is an existential change! A man’s career is frequently the center of his meaningfulness. His relevance in the world is usually linked to his value in the workplace. There are certain realizations that come to him. He realizes that he will never again experience the freedom and joy of childhood. Mom and Dad made sure he had warmth and security in his life. He would never again experience going to school and developing new friends each year some of them becoming life-long buddies and now they were slowly leaving this earth and  leaving another hole in his world. He will never again know that first crush, the first date the first kiss.  The magic when he found his soul mate and the enchantment of the early years of marriage will never happen again. This was replaced by the birth of their children with all the positive changes occurring in his life. Weekends were spent attending activities with the children, screaming them on to victory. Attempting to guide them through the terrible teens by the grace of God somehow happened without major damage. He will never again have the painful but proud experience of seeing his kids growing up and heading off to college.  Then ultimately came the double edged sword of the empty nest.
It is at this time he feels a great sense of loss reflecting upon the above life events now permanently left behind him. Ultimately, we are born alone and we die alone. The seasons of life come and go so quickly. Without a work life he loses occupational relevance. With no children he loses parental relevance. With the weakening of his body and mind he loses personal relevance. With loss of income and dependence upon his wife’s income, social security, and retirement funds he loses financial relevance.
This should be a time to reestablish a meaningful relationship with his spouse. This does in fact occur but requires significant love and understanding. Neither of them are the same person who fell in love so many years ago. Although their commitment has morphed into a more mature love, their goals may not be the same. She may remain on a career path. He may be searching for relevance and usefulness. One may wish for more travel and the other not. This is a time for growing closer together but may result in just the opposite.
Advice to the elderly man and his spouse
•    Believe in yourself as an individual and a couple
•    Respect your spouse’s space and support her efforts even if you don’t like what she is doing
•    Do not waste your time lingering in the past nor speculating on the future (yes your death is approaching, everybody’s is). Live in and focus on this day only.
•    Don’t be afraid to be a house husband. Your wife will love you for it
•    Develop a new career. Learn about computers, take up woodworking, write a book, develop a bucket list, etc.
•    Volunteer with your church, social organizations, nonprofit groups
•    Become a consultant in your previous career
•    Go back to school
•    Pray and meditate daily, miracles can still occur in your life
o    Make some decisions – define your goals
o    Ask for help
o    Totally trust in God (or the Source, or the Universe) and let Him carry the ball
o    Give thanks for all that you have and plan to have in your life
o    Get busy
May you be abundantly blessed