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How to Remain Relevant as You Age

Retired Article   (1,621 Views 16 Replies 820 Words)

Carol Ebert is a MSN, RN and specializes in Certified Wellness Practitioner.

5 Followers; 55 Articles; 20,381 Profile Views; 142 Posts

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It seems once you reach your Third Act there is a never ending stream of revelations you never knew, or paid attention to before.  Not just that some body parts and functions are changing, and not always for the better, but also changes in professional strengths.  Here are a few to consider.

How to Remain Relevant as You Age

1. Age related decline starts earlier than you think

If you have been climbing the professional ladder and are deeply invested in being high up, be aware that there is a fall coming. For most people in most fields decline starts earlier than almost anyone thinks and nursing is not exempt.

Scholars at Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research studied a wide variety of jobs and found considerable susceptibility to age-related decline in fields ranging from policing to nursing.  It showed up in the professions that required mental processing speed and significant analytic capabilities which is what nursing is all about.

The potential reason for age related decline lies in the work of the British psychologist Raymond Cattell, who in the early 1940s introduced the concepts of fluid and crystallized intelligence. 

2. Prepare for a midway course correction

Some nursing strengths peak early and then diminish

Fluid intelligence is the ability to reason, analyze, and solve novel problems which nurses do every day.  This ability to innovate is highest early in adulthood and diminishes starting in your 30s and 40s. This is why tech entrepreneurs, for instance, do so well so early, and why older people have a much harder time innovating.

Some nursing strengths peak later and continue to grow

Crystallized intelligence, in contrast, is the ability to use knowledge gained in the past. It’s all the wisdom you have accumulated. Because crystallized intelligence relies on an accumulating knowledge over time, it tends to increase through your 40s, and does not diminish until very late in life. The best explainers of complicated ideas—like the best teachers—tend to be in their mid-60s or older, some of them well into their 80s.  This builds a case for us as we age to consider dedicating ourselves to sharing knowledge in some meaningful way. I’ve always thought nurses were great teachers and as you age you are even more so!

This is so relevant for me as a member of the Third Act because I did transition out of clinical nursing in my 30’s where I relied on fluid intelligence and moved into health education.  As I look back, I don’t think I could have continued the clinical side of nursing long term, but when I look at myself now as a health educator I feel I can continue teaching others indefinitely.  I am fully aware that my wisdom from all my experiences (crystallized intelligence) is in full bloom and flourishing.

In addition, I have always believed that nurses who remain in the clinical arena who are getting older would make great mentors and coaches for younger nurses beginning their careers.  This idea would not only retain older nurses from leaving too soon because the work is too physically demanding while also supporting the younger nurses who might get discouraged and leave nursing too soon before they even got started.

3. Prepare to walk away

Based on Hindu philosophy, Ashrama is a stage in life whose name comes from two Sanskrit words meaning “retiring” and “into the forest.” This is the stage, usually starting around age 50, where we purposefully focus less on professional ambition, and become more and more devoted to spirituality, service, and wisdom. This doesn’t mean that you need to stop working when you turn 50—something few people can afford to do—only that your life goals should adjust.

The wisdom of Hindu philosophy—and indeed the wisdom of many philosophical traditions—suggests that you should be prepared to walk away from your professional rewards before you feel ready. Even if you’re at the height of your professional prestige, you probably need to scale back your career ambitions in order to scale up your metaphysical ones.  Accepting the natural cadence of our abilities sets up the possibility of shifting our attention in our Third Act to higher spiritual and life priorities.

This is where I am now and definitely feel the pull to give back, be of service, utilize my gifts and talents to help improve the health of as many people as I can.  I hope to continue this quest for as long as I am able and do see this as a worthy spiritual practice.

So the bottom line is to BE AWARE and PREPARE to remain relevant in your career and beyond in Your Third Act.  It’s all good!

Inspired by:

Your professional decline is coming (much) sooner than you think (American Enterprise Institute)

Early retirement might be in your future (CNBC)

Does Age-Related Decline in Ability Correspond with Retirement Age? (Center for Retirement Research at Boston College)

What stage are you in and what lessons have you learned?

Carol Ebert RN, BSN, MA, CHES, Certified Wellness Practitioner, Certified Mindful Coach, Sanoviv Nutrition Advisor

5 Followers; 55 Articles; 20,381 Profile Views; 142 Posts

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VivaLasViejas has 20 years experience as a ASN, RN and specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych.

142 Articles; 9,641 Posts; 248,151 Profile Views

I loved this article. I'm a Third Act-er myself and I'm still searching for a way to make this time of my life meaningful to me and useful to others. You have given me food for thought. Thank you. 

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Carol Ebert is a MSN, RN and specializes in Certified Wellness Practitioner.

55 Articles; 142 Posts; 20,381 Profile Views

We have so much to give in our third act.  As they say "Do What You Love" and you will be giving back from your truest self.

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morelostthanfound has 27 years experience as a BSN and specializes in CVOR, General/Trauma Surgery.

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Nice article and thank you for your personal insights.  While I agree with the need for all nurses to stay relevant in an ever-changing profession by taking periodic inventory of their personal assets/limitations, I also feel that we, as 'seasoned' nurses, are systematically devalued in many ways.  By virtue of our many years of varied experience, most older nurses have much to contribute in terms of patient care and in the mentoring of our younger colleagues.  However, it seems that many hospitals routinely 'target' some experienced nurses or pass them over entirely when they initially apply for a job in lieu of an ofter younger, inexperienced graduate nurse (with lower salary demands)-yes, I know there are outliers and this is not the rule everywhere, but from my perspective in many hospital systems, it seems to be a disturbing trend.   This is not only demoralizing and defeating, but what commentary does this make on our profession?  Are there other professions that demand their members be relevant and legitimized?

Edited by morelostthanfound

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Carol Ebert is a MSN, RN and specializes in Certified Wellness Practitioner.

55 Articles; 142 Posts; 20,381 Profile Views

My experience echos what your thoughts are exactly.  Definitely felt the "age discrimination" thing as I was on my way out the door.  Such a waste of all our talents and wisdom.

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Alex_RN has 3 years experience.

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These dynamics are never spoken about in regards to the second-career RN. We who take the floor sometimes a few decades (or more) older than our  peers. We face some challenges and usually try to keep it a secret, lest we be seen as already over the hill while also being a newbie.

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traumaRUs has 27 years experience as a MSN, APRN and specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU.

143 Articles; 20,812 Posts; 187,613 Profile Views

I can relate to much of this. I was a second career RN - became a nurse in my 30's. By my late 40's I realized I needed to further my career in order to stay relevant. Getting a grad degree was my key to longevity. I'm now....uh...lets just say >50 (like way older) but I still am clinically relevant, able to care for pts, keep up with my peers (ages 30-50) and still meet the demands of my job. 

For me, some of the things I've done (because I need to work probably another 10 years):

1. Keep clinically focused by CME, studying on my own.

2. Keep up with social media and technology - this is the quickest death to your career IMHO for older workers. 

3. Remain very professional. I don't share my personal issues with colleagues. 

4. I don't mention any physical issues - there is one co-worker who is not thought of as a team player because they frequently try to get out of work by playing the "age card."

Totally agree that sometimes a job needs to change as you get older - for me, I went back to school and switched out of a very busy ED to a private practice. 

Best wishes for everyone. 

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Carol Ebert is a MSN, RN and specializes in Certified Wellness Practitioner.

55 Articles; 142 Posts; 20,381 Profile Views

8 hours ago, Alex_RN said:

These dynamics are never spoken about in regards to the second-career RN. We who take the floor sometimes a few decades (or more) older than our  peers. We face some challenges and usually try to keep it a secret, lest we be seen as already over the hill while also being a newbie.

Wouldn't it be great if we were honest about how our abilities evolve as we age and wouldn't it be great if institutions prepared to accommodate instead of discriminate.  What a great recruitment tool that would be for nurses of all ages.

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Carol Ebert is a MSN, RN and specializes in Certified Wellness Practitioner.

55 Articles; 142 Posts; 20,381 Profile Views

1 hour ago, traumaRUs said:

I can relate to much of this. I was a second career RN - became a nurse in my 30's. By my late 40's I realized I needed to further my career in order to stay relevant. Getting a grad degree was my key to longevity. I'm now....uh...lets just say >50 (like way older) but I still am clinically relevant, able to care for pts, keep up with my peers (ages 30-50) and still meet the demands of my job. 

For me, some of the things I've done (because I need to work probably another 10 years):

1. Keep clinically focused by CME, studying on my own.

2. Keep up with social media and technology - this is the quickest death to your career IMHO for older workers. 

3. Remain very professional. I don't share my personal issues with colleagues. 

4. I don't mention any physical issues - there is one co-worker who is not thought of as a team player because they frequently try to get out of work by playing the "age card."

Totally agree that sometimes a job needs to change as you get older - for me, I went back to school and switched out of a very busy ED to a private practice. 

Best wishes for everyone. 

Great insights and ideas.  Thanks for sharing.

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78 Posts; 840 Profile Views

"I also feel that we, as 'seasoned' nurses, are systematically devalued in many ways.  By virtue of our many years of varied experience, most older nurses have much to contribute in terms of patient care and in the mentoring of our younger colleagues."

Amen to THIS!!!  It is so difficult to adequately train a new nurse when short-staffed and moving at 100 miles/hr!  Let's keep these seasoned nurses around to teach, mentor and most of all... reassure the young ones that they can do it!

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llg has 40 years experience as a PhD, RN and specializes in Nursing Professional Development.

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I have found that people treat me very differently now that I have shared my plans for retirement -- even though it will probably not be for another 18 months.   That should come as no surprise to anybody as I am in my mid-60's, have gray hair, etc.   But just the fact that I have been open about my plans to retire in another year and half has cause some people to pull away and to discount my opinions.

I think that it's not just that they see me as less capable than I used to be, but that they see me as not having as much power in the future.   They feel like they don't have to give me consideration because I am "on my way out" rather than "on my way up" the career ladder and that gives me less power.

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Carol Ebert is a MSN, RN and specializes in Certified Wellness Practitioner.

55 Articles; 142 Posts; 20,381 Profile Views

When I declared that I was entering my Third Act and I couldn't wait to recreate myself and continue making a difference on my terms, people changed their attitude about me and aging.  They were even a bit jealous.  Just a thought on how to turn a negative situation into a positive.

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