KEEPING ACTIVE – DAVE BERNARD – “Life is like a box of chocolates.” I bet that everyone reading this blog is familiar with that famous line from the movie Forrest Gump. Throughout this wonderful movie, Forrest proves to be an endearing, caring, forgiving, somewhat inept character that we all come to love. He perpetually gets himself into sticky situations and then slick as an eel, gets himself out. Although life around him is not always fair or kind, he keeps on truckin’ and in the end not only gets the girl but makes a tidy fortune as well. I am not sure what his retirement plans look like or how he might choose to spend his retired life but I think it is safe to say he has paid his dues and has some options.

What if Forrest Gump was to retire in your neighborhood? What kind of a senior citizen do you think he would be? As he aged, he would face the same effects of aging we all face with the exception of needing money! Would Forrest be the kind of retired neighbor that you enjoyed running into as you went about your daily errands? At the end of the day, would you share a night cap with him on his porch reliving life’s events?

I like to imagine that Forrest Gump is exactly the type of senior citizen we would want to spend time with. Going one step further, the way Forrest faces life and how I think he would live retirement is a great example how each of us should live as seniors. Here is why Forrest Gump is a great senior citizen role model:

He sees the good in everyone – Forrest is not looking for ulterior motives. He does not second guess why others do something but instead takes what we do at face value. If you tell him something, of course he believes you. If you say you are going to do something, he expects that you will be true to your word. By treating everyone as if they are good, sometimes they make an extra effort to live up to those expectations.

He will do everything in his power to help you out – remember when Forrest rushed repeatedly into the jungles of Vietnam to save multiple injured soldiers? He was not looking for fame or fortune – he only wanted to help those in need. With no concern for himself or his own safety, he rushed back into the raging battle. In our lives, such life-or-death situations are fortunately infrequent. But there are many who cross our path who we can offer help and encouragement at little risk to ourselves. A perfect opportunity to be like Forrest.

He doesn’t sweat the little things – Forrest accepts the fact that he is slower than most and because of that, other kids will pick on him (sometimes difficult if they cannot catch him!). Lt Dan is openly angry with him saving his life but Forrest remains unphased. He buys a shrimp boat and initially catches nothing but trash from the bay. But he keeps on chugging and smiling and running, focusing on what really matters.

He loves honestly, openly, without reservation – throughout the story, Jenny moves in and out of his life as she struggles to find her winding way in the world. More than once, Forrest is left high-and-dry as the relationship limps along. But never does he lash out or complain or blame anyone for his situation. He has found the love of his life and he will wait until she ultimately comes around. Despite the risk of being hurt and the many challenges along the way, Forrest’s love never waivers. “Me and Jenny goes together like peas and carrots. 

He does not obsess over money – Forrest’s retirement savings took a very positive bump with some fortunate events (the only surviving shrimp boat in Louisiana after Hurricane Carmen) and some timely investing (“Lieutenant Dan got me invested in some kind of fruit company. So then I got a call from him, saying we don’t have to worry about money no more. And I said that’s good! One less thing.”) He could continue working and try to keep adding to that “nest egg” as so many do. Instead he gives half of his Apple stock to Bubbas family and he “volunteers” his time mowing the lawn for the Greenbow County for free. Forrest accepts his fame and fortune with good nature and without a swelling head. And he realizes when enough is enough.

Forrest does not over intellectualize the moment – he takes a brief think, makes his decision and if he has no other option, he takes off running!

He is humble – Forrest is not overwhelmed by titles or fame. Despite meeting with numerous U.S. presidents, becoming an international ping-pong-phenomenon, talking with John Lennon on the Dick Cavett Show, and inspiring a nation with his cross-country run, he is not full of himself. Whereas many a retired executive strives to impress us with stories of past glory days, Forrest is comfortable in his fame and far from boring with his many stories.

As retirees, we could all use a little Forrest Gump in us. Although we may not prefer him solving the mysteries of the atom or negotiating world peace, those characteristics that make him so lovable could find a nice place in our lives. This combination along with a pervasive innocence is why I believe that a retired Forrest Gump is the ideal senior citizen role model. That’s all I have to say about that.

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