In The Huddle with Fran Tarkenton

Find Your Purpose and Stay Engaged

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!

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Rusty

My husband & I volunteer with a local substance abuse coalition. We also participate with our local church. I’m a professional artist and have a degenerative nerve disease causing me quite a bit of a problem on some days trying to draw – or type, or write. Talking to people is great – because of my tremor, they think I’m always agreeing with them. The main food, medicine, literature, anything people with suicidal tendencies lack- is hope. Sure there are endorphins in the brain, I understand the medical situation – also that Parkinson’s depletes the endorphins in the brain leading to depression. On the most part, we as Christians have failed the general public by remaining silent about the disease of mental health, turning away at the sound of depression. Jonah had it. Elijah had it. Even – well, you look them up. Where was Handel when he wrote the… Read more »

Rick B.

I’ve loved Robin Williams ever since the days of “Mork and Mindy,” and I loved his self-professed idol, Jonathan Winters, long before Robin came into the limelight. Both had true genius for off-the-cuff comedy and improvisation. But along with that comic genius came mental illiness problems for both later in life. I fault only one person for Robin Williams’ suicide — himself. He was smart enough to get professional help. I don’t think he wanted it. Possibly the early signs of his Parkinson’s disease is what pushed him over the line. It is a degenerative disease that slowly disrupts the connections between the brain and body. For Robin’s form of physical comedy, you could imagine the implications of such a disease for his future. Linda Rondstadt had to give up her singing for the same disease. She said it finally came down to not feeling right charging someone to attend… Read more »

Becca

When I first heard of Robin Williams’ death, I thought of the saying ‘no one knows the tears of a clown.’ He gave others so much joy and laughter, but he could not find his own. He seemed to have so much – family, friends, career. Yet, even all of that was obviously not enough when he was faced with despair. Depression is such a common thing that most people ignore warning signs of danger in those with depression. They just pat the person on the hand and tell them to take a pill and go talk to ‘someone’ (else, not them, anyone but them) about it. Thanks to Dr. Spock (may he rot) most people are so busy making busy that they cannot be bothered with their own elderly parents, disabled siblings, or sick friends much less anyone else until they do something inconvenient like die or kill themselves.… Read more »

Wendy gatchie

Neither Ray Milland nor Montgomery Clift committed suicide. They died of natural causes. People should check their facts before posting.

Sher

I’m so very sorry to hear about Robin W., It was so sad and took me 2 or 3 days to stop feeling so sad. But then I understand his pain as I have suffered with depression for about 10 years now. I am on medication but when I have a particularly bad time, the feeling of overwhelming sadness is impossible to let go. Sometimes I do feel like killing myself, but that’s against God’s law, so here I am. I don’t go to church, but have a strong belief in Jesus and his father. I’m not sure what church to go to. Are there any where you can wear pants or jeans?? I know when I was a child you had to wear your Sunday dress. Sorry I started rambling. I will truly miss Robin W. but know he is with our Heavenly Father now. He truly was a… Read more »

Rik

Suicide? … No way! … I have a small, one person business, I deal with other small business owners, and guess what? Everybody’s business stinks under the dictatorship of this socialist president. I can’t afford to retire, but feel like I’m climbing uphill pulling a bus. Everyday I try to work with a positive attitude, and everyday ends up unproductive and extremely frustrating. I struggle to pay my bills, eat and just survive just like most others. Suicide for me is out of the question, for me, frustration doesn’t lead to depression, instead it leads to anger. I’ll never quit fighting, but if I ever found out I had 6 months or less to live, I’m going to rid the country of some of the socialist parasites that are responsible for killing this country! Maybe a suicide vest with enough power to take out most of the graduating class from… Read more »

Richard

I appreciate all of your posts… I am on the last third of my 86th year and wonder why anyone would take their
own life… I have concluded after much research that the problem is, they have not had proper nourishment..
We live by the food we eat and the quality of our food worsens year after year…

JR

With the tools of modern medicine and pharmaceuticals, many of us are finding that we are able to extend our productive lives well beyond our retirement years. But to really live an exceptional life of good health and happiness, all of us should pay heed to Fran’s advice of staying active, to our fullest. Plus, idle time creates a worried mind. For me, I am reminded of a few clever lines that I once read about being stronger, healthier, and happier in life. Three short lines that are very powerful for living: Have someone that loves you; a job you like to do; and something to always look forward to. While the first two are obviously important in anyone’s life, I have discovered that for my own daily renewal of energy, the last one is the most beneficial in how I approach each day in my own life. Whether it’s… Read more »

Gloria Sterling

Another way to stay active, if you haven’t, get active in your church. If you don’t belong to one, receive Christ as your Savior and ask where He wants to “plant” you. It’s not only necessary (salvation, that is) for your eternal life, but for your sense of accomplishment here on earth. Shalom, halleluYah!!!

Tom Buenavista

I’m sure we are just scratching the surface when it comes to personal situations, personal circumstances, and how we live as individuals, families, etc. It is quite a stew. But back to the basics. We are given one life to live. We value it – most of the time – and lamentably, there are times when, in desperation and despondency we let go of our inner courage and give up. I can’t imagine me killing myself – not in any circumstance, none. Life is too sacred, too precious to be taken lightly. I was put here for a purpose. I am certain that when I have done what I have been put here to do, He will call me home. OK fine. Then it will be curtains – but not before. Like Ernest Hemingway, Ray Milland, Montgomery Cliff and all those “gifted” folks before him, Robin Williams too, took the… Read more »

Sandi

I agree with you Fran. I’m in my 60’s, still working my job, and building a business; learning a new language, and have a growing list of places to visit and things to do. I feel like I’m just becoming truly alive – Stay engaged and don’t let others make you feel it’s too late to do the things you want to do, to live life. Find something new to try. I will die living life. I also cry when so many young people are committing suicide. There’s too much to live for.

Robert Almstrom

I am still working, my small business, but it is slow. Wish I had someone to take over, as it needs younger people that need the work. It is a service business, and there is a fair amount of travel. Best little business with growing pains. A registered and certified business servicing manufacturing business that need measuring equipment like Optical Comparators, Coordinate Measuring Machines, Hardness Testers, Gear Measuring Instruments, etc. serviced, calibrated, and certified. Also recondition machinery in-house. Sell digital readouts, Coordinate Measuring Machines, do retrofits. A very diversified business. Thank you.

Robert

Tom

Thanks for the words. Timely.

Mike

Fran, easy for you to say, not being an average working person with an average working history and average lifetime working income. But I do agree that we depend on (too much) and expect the “traditional” pension or retirement, which is really a new “tradition,” because 100 years ago there were no retirement plans. One thing lost is extended families – taking care of the older generation instead of dependence on ss and care professionals in places like nursing homes.