A guide to thriving in retirement
A jingle heard these days is that retirement is the time when you stop living at work and begin working at living. My dictionary says retiring is withdrawing or removing oneself. But that doesn’t help understand what it means to retire.
Many retire from careers in the 50s nowadays. Some never “work” again. Others continue working part time, change careers, or eventually find other employment or meaningful volunteer work. A few make at least temporary careers of working at playing. They continue the pace of their careers while “playing” at golfing, fishing, other sports or past times.
To facilitate the work of living, a new industry is developing around building residential communities of retirees. Communities provide independent living units and all levels of assisted living and health care services. They also have facilities for indulging in and learning new hobbies, exercising and continuing education.
The vision of retirement I had as a child was of crossing some great divide between actively working and gradually sliding down the slope to death. I believe that’s still the unacknowledged, prevailing notion today.
That doesn’t square with the jingle of retirement as changing from living at work to working at living, which includes a major portion of society today. “Retirement” is a term without a clear understanding. Or, to put it another way, it’s an understanding in search of a good label.
The same principles of good self care during working careers, like proper diet, maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise and good physical, mental and spiritual health are even more important for flourishing in retirement.
By age 50, aging’s gradual deterioration processes have taken their unique toll on everyone. Physical health in life’s final stage becomes progressively more precarious.
While little can be done to reverse some of the deterioration associated with aging, more can be done to improve spiritual and emotional health.
Retirement is a stressful radical and drastic life change. It can be especially difficult if it’s also associated with other losses such as debility, serious illness, death or impending death of a loved one.
Successful retirement is crucial for flourishing in life’s final stage. It begins with a paradigm shift, a change in the view of yourself and the world you life in.
In the work-a-day world personal identity and status are established by career roles like mechanic, doctor or teacher. Roles carry expectations of rates of activities. Moving toward a more relaxed, retirement pace involves controlling impulses to fill unplanned moments with activities.
Personal transformation also requires reflection on who I once was, who I want to become, and what I want to do to thrive in retirement.
Retirees are equals, fellow travelers facing an unknowable future, trudging down life’s final path for who knows how long. Events might be “good” and desirable, “bad” and undesirable, or uncertain. Regardless, they’ll all have to be accommodated in order to thrive.
Many of my fellow residents in the retirement center are in their upper 90s. A couple are over 100. They’re content and thrive despite discomforts, physical limitations, and having survived their allotment of life’s setbacks. They share traits of being sociable, having good friends, and facing mortality with equanimity. It’s like they’ve lived through it all up to now and are prepared for whatever else might happen.