By Keren Brown Wilson, Ph.D
Labor Day is upon us. Started in 1882 to recognize the contributions of men and women in the U.S. workforce, in 1887 Oregon was the first state to make it a legal holiday.
Today it’s widely viewed as the unofficial last weekend of summer. But it’s still a celebration of the dignity of work, largely of the contributions that benefit society – like building things, caring for others or supporting the work of teams. And work implies a state of being worthy of esteem or respect.
Last month I mentioned that having purpose is an important element of successful aging. Tome, that’s related to dignity of work. Consider the phrase “labor of love.” Typically that’s something one does based on one’s interest in the work itself rather than any payment – work for one’s own enjoyment, or for the benefit of others.
For anyone who is retired from paid work – or sufficiently disabled to not work in the paid labor market – there is no barrier to being involved in a labor of love. It can give purpose to one’s life.
There is much to be done in our communities and for others in acts large and small. Imagine not only benefitting others, but yourself by various activities in which you get involved. Look around as you enjoy the last weekend of summer and ask yourself, “Where am I needed?”
Never think you are too old, too used up or too out of date to be able to contribute meaningfully as a part of aging gracefully… with purpose and with dignity.
Keren is president of the Jessie F. Richardson Foundation. Based in Clackamas, the nonprofit helps elders live full lives with dignity. Its strategies focus on bridging the gap for elders, families and communities throughout the United States and around the globe. Contact her at 503.408-4088 or KWilson@jfrfoundation.org, or visit JFRFoundation.org.