What’s Your Legacy?

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This article is part of The Third Third of Life Toolkit—a collection of resources for ministry to and with people ages 55 and over, brought to you by two ministries of the Christian Reformed Church in North America: Disability Concerns and Faith Formation Ministries.

Thinking about how we use our retirement years is closely linked to thinking about our legacy. How will people remember us? What lasting good will we leave behind? Will the ways we’ve lived out our faith have an impact on others?

The following brief story captures the essence of a fruitful legacy:

A couple celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary with their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and friends. Two of their children asked to interview them during the celebration about how they experienced God's faithfulness through all kinds of difficult (they had lost four children) and joyful experiences. But their father already had something prepared, and he proceeded to read a very moving description of their marriage journey that fulfilled the same goal. It was a powerful faith-sharing and faith-growing experience for the whole family.

The resources listed here offer some excellent starting points for thinking and conversing about the idea of legacy.

Articles

  • The article Want to Leave a Legacy? Be a Mentor challenges older adults to focus on being interested, rather than interesting, and supporting young people by listening to and encouraging them.

  • In Finishing Well, Henry Numan challenges people in the third third of life to recognize that growing older is not the beginning of the end, but rather the end of the beginning: the transition of the “now” to the glorious reality in Christ.

  • In I Want to Be an Adjective When I Grow Up, Mark Stephenson describes how his questions of identity continue into the final decade of his full-time employment—a time when he feels, more than ever, the urgency of growing in godly character. 

  • The article These Millennials Got New Roommates describes a project called “Nuns and Nones” (“Nones” being millennials who don’t identify with any religious tradition). A group of Sisters of Mercy in the San Francisco bay area said yes to some Nones who wanted to live with them in the convent—an amazing way for the sisters to leave a legacy behind in the younger generation and for both groups to save on housing costs. 

  • At Colleges, What’s Old Is New: Retirees Living on Campus. Some colleges are designing another way of mixing the generations: building retirement homes on their land to defray some of the costs of college housing and to provide a unique environment for cross-generational learning and relationships.

  • What Older Adults Can Teach Us about Relationships. Sometimes leaving a legacy can be as simple (or as difficult) as modeling what good relationships look like.

Videos

  • Ted introduces the Young Enough to Serve program and challenges adults to think about ways they can serve in meaningful ways in the third third of life.

  • The Art of the Interview. This valuable TED talk focuses on interviewing people, especially older people “who know how the story turns out,” allowing them to leave a legacy for future generations.

  • Old Coots Giving Advice will challenge you and other church leaders or third-thirders to get creative about your legacy!

Books

  • Wisdom at Work: The Making of a Modern Elder by Chip Conley. In a world where ageism is alive and well, it’s tempting for older adults to fade into the woodwork and drop out of the workforce. Conley argues that companies are waking up to the value of emotional intelligence and wisdom and that it’s a very good time for third-thirders to write the next chapter of their career. 

Blog

  • Creating a New Story for the New Old. This blog by Amy Hanson offers information and links that will help third-thirders live and serve fully as an essential part of God’s people.

FOR THOUGHT OR DISCUSSION

  • What might the ideas of calling and vocation mean for you in the third third of life?

  • What can church leaders do to celebrate the legacies of older members?

  • If you are a third-thirder, set some goals for the legacy you’d like to leave behind—then work on achieving them.

QUESTIONS?

If you’re part of the Christian Reformed Church in North America and you have questions about how to strengthen your church’s ministry to and with people in the third third of life, one of Faith Formation Ministries’ Regional Catalyzers would love to talk with you about ideas and strategies.

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