The problem with retirement is …

by Catherine Rickwood

that according to the Oxford English dictionary, retirement means: ‘The action or fact of leaving one’s job and ceasing to work’, or ‘the period of one’s life after retiring from work’. Why is this a problem?

Most of us look forward to when we can stop working. No more boss. No more deadlines. No more peak hour traffic. No more meetings. No more office politics.

We look forward to … More freedom. More travel. More relaxation. More time to spend with friends and family. More time to exercise.  More sleep-ins. More lazy breakfasts.

All true. In fact a recent Australian study of over 3,000 retirees led by Dr Melody Ding from the University of Sydney found that retirees often were more physically active, less likely to smoke, and had healthier sleep patterns.  According to Dr Ding, being retired provides the opportunity to have a healthier lifestyle as our time is not consumed by work and commuting.

In terms of travel, data in 2015 from the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that over one-third of short-term departures from Australia are by people over 50 years of age, with over 80% of those departures for holidays or visiting friends and family.

So what’s the problem with retirement?

Whilst retirement does provide an opportunity for travel, exercise and a healthier lifestyle, and not working ever again may seem idyllic, working, whether paid or voluntary, is also an important factor to ageing well and ageing healthily. I’ve written before about the health benefits of volunteering and my friend Eric encouraged everyone to work longer.

In fact, the problem is not retirement. I believe, the problem is with the definition of retirement and the cultural stereotype this promotes. Retirement is a chance to redefine ourselves and our lives. It’s an opportunity to create a rich tapestry of life that includes travel, exercise, paid and unpaid work, engaging again with old hobbies and taking up new ones, becoming active in our communities, caring for parents or others in the community, and so much more.

I particularly like Ashton Applewhite’s approach when she says, “Aging is a natural, lifelong, powerful process.” Her recent book ‘A Manifesto Against Ageism‘, is one she says “will shake you by the shoulders, cheer you up, make you mad, and change the way you see the rest of your life”. I believe every one of us can age with confidence and courage to combat the cliche’s of what it means to be older.

I recently read a story by Rick Moody, who’s 71 years of age, and amongst many other things, a contributor to ChangingAging. Rick’s story, like Eric’s advice is inspiring and encouraging. I believe there’s a large proportion of retirees living in a similar way to Rick and Eric. Fortunately there are increasingly more voices like Ashton’s determined to fight age stereotypes. Redefining retirement and pushing the stereotypes of what it is to be ‘older’ to one side.

What are you doing? How are you challenging age stereotypes and redefining retirement? I’d enjoy hearing your story.





About the Author

Catherine Rickwood

An experienced researcher and business executive, Catherine's work is informed by academic knowledge and evidence to deliver practical actions with measurable outcomes. These combined skills create a powerful and useful ability to delve deep on issues, ask incisive questions, think laterally, and bring knowledge and insights to individuals, a team, and an organisation keen to engage with, and include the over 50's as a valuable part of their business strategy.

Catherine Rickwood is solutions-focussed, working with innovative organisations keen to improve customer and employee insights and empathy to increase their success in new markets, build loyalty, and increase innovation. She does this using a co-design process that engages employees and key stakeholders to create collaborative solutions. Contact Catherine to discover how her services can support your organisation to harness the changing demographic reality.

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