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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What Is Community?

What is the meaning of community in the second half of life? Is it the city we live in? The church or organizations we belong to? Our family of origin (or choice)?

I recently gave a presentation on Community in the Second Half of Life to a group of fifty retirees at a local University. I was amazed that a topic of this nature could attract that many people. In the room people openly shared what they thought community was or wasn't and generally we had a lively discussion even though there was no consensus about the meaning of community.

Some participants thought it was the political climate, or being physically close to grandchildren or having good friends. For others it was more about the amenities that were provided by the country or city they lived in. Finally, a gentle woman at the back of the room chimed, "I guess community to me means that I'm free to be me!" Afterward I started to think about this and it's importance for intentional agers. And the more I thought about it the more I appreciated that wonderfully simple answer.

Maybe community is the particular set of relationships and physical and political attributes that support each of us to be authentic, to be who we really are in the world? If this is true our community should support our continued personal development by providing opportunities for us to explore the person we want to become in the second half of life. Such a community would foster a sense of creativity in life through opportunities for new relationships and experiences. The important factor for intentional agers is to remember that we are free to choose our community (or at least part of it). And If it doesn't support our continued emotional, physical and spiritual growth in the second half of life than we can choose something else.

This is not free, though, and here's the rub...it might require more risk-taking and a willingness to be uncomfortable with the unknown than we are used to. Being who we really are is that way, I guess! I think it is a minor expense for what it buys, though!

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