The news of Robin Williams’ death has been everywhere this week. The tragic story has shone a light on a growing problem, one that had until now been going under the radar. That is the rapid increase in suicide rates for middle age adults and seniors.
CDC studies have found that the suicide rate for 45-64 year olds has increased more than 40 percent since 1999. 40 percent! Suicide now causes more deaths each year than car accidents.
According to the Wall Street Journal, some of the biggest factors in the increase are financial problems in a struggling economy and social isolation. To me, these numbers tell a story. First, that we are living longer and longer lives at the same time that the traditional pension is disappearing. Meanwhile, there’s this idea in our culture that once you reach a certain age, it’s time to pack it up and just go play croquet. Nothing to do and not enough money—what could possibly go wrong?
As seniors, we need to stand up and fight against these trends. I am 74 years old. I don’t see a day when I ever stop working. And when no one else is willing to give you a chance, give yourself a chance. Start a business. Volunteer with organizations you believe in. Stay involved and engaged in the world around you, in whatever way you can. I love playing a round of golf now and then (I think my game is as good as ever right now, too!), but I’m thankful that every day I can go back into my office and focus on helping more people and building my business.
It is so important for all of us to stay active and engaged, to find a deeper purpose than just “retirement.” I look at Rupert Murdoch and Warren Buffett. They’re both 83 years old, and have more money than they could ever hope to spend in 10 lifetimes. But they keep working! I don’t think they work because they need the money, but rather because they feel the need to be a part of the world, to stay engaged. If they stopped and isolated themselves from the world, they would not know what to do.
I believe in entrepreneurship, not just because it is good for our country’s economy, but because it is good for us, as people. The spirit of staying active every day, getting smarter and working hard keeps our brains active and helps us stay healthier, both physically and mentally.
AMAC is a great organization to keep people engaged with the most important things in our country. Talk to the people you know and encourage them to join and stay active!