Monday, 10 September 2012

Retirement: A Dirty Word?

So why is it exactly that even a mention of the “R” word can have the power to strike fear into the heart of even the most positive soon-to-be-pensioner?

A quick look at some of the entries for “retirement” in the Oxford English Dictionary can give us a telling clue. I have to warn you, it’s not exactly heartening, but bear with me:
“the state or condition of living apart from society; seclusion; privacy”
“the act of leaving office, employment, or service permanently, now especially on reaching pensionable age. Also: the act of withdrawing permanently from one’s usual sphere of activity”
“(sport) a withdrawal from a race or match, esp. because of injury”

Yes, society’s widely held assumption seems to be that retirement necessarily entails indolence, loneliness, and above all an act of giving up. This is part of the popular pigeonholing of retirees that I spoke about last week. And as I’ve been saying, we need to fight these stereotypes and allow ourselves to enjoy life in retirement on our own terms.
See finishing work not as a withdrawal from a race, but the point at which you cross the finish line and wonder what to do next. Get back in another race! Or a football match, or pie-eating contest, or game of solitaire... I’m taking the metaphor a bit far here. What I’m trying to say is that your options are very varied.

You can nurture old passions, experiment with new ones and follow impulses. And if you find you’re not quite ready for full-time leisure just yet, don’t rule out the option of later returning to work. It’s surprising how much of the stress is lifted when it’s your choice to work entirely. You can engage in it in whatever capacity you like, and explore possible new callings. Every individual’s idea of retirement is different.

One thing is certain however – it’s a time of opportunity. You now have all the breathing space you need to think about exactly what you want this time to mean to you. You’re really in no hurry!
It’s all about remaining active and open-minded. Remember that no doors are closed to you. Below are a few examples of some truly inspiring retirees:
  • In 2009 a 97-year-old sky-diver, George Moys, jumped from a height of 3048 metres with his grandson (and survived!)
  • Professional weight-lifter and great grandma, Winifred Pristell, set two world records age 68, through bench pressing 176.2lb and dead lifting 270lb. She earned the nickname “heavy metal” and said soon after that the older she was getting the stronger she felt she was becoming
  • The oldest first-grade student was a Chinese woman called Ma Xiuxian, who fulfilled her life’s ambition by starting school at the astounding age of 102!
  • 84-year-old Anthony Smith recently embarked on an Atlantic voyage on a raft made of gas pipes in order to travel 2,800 miles. Best of all, according to the British paper The Daily Telegraph he named the vessel “An-Tiki” (geddit?)

I think the OED might have to give its definition of “retirement” a rethink. And we need to update that old cliché “life begins at forty,” because with years of healthy, active life and great sex ahead of us, life most definitely begins at retirement. This is not despite our age and situation, but exactly because of the freedom and experience they give us.
Next time I’ll be considering the role that money matters play in achieving retirement happiness and doing my best to convince you once again that positivity is really the most important factor.