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Friday, October 22, 2010

Being Retired: The Experience

     Within the next year I will begin to experience what it’s like to be retired? What will I find in retirement and is it something I should want? Will it be “the crown of life” (Wink & James, 2006), or the signal that I have finished all the important stuff, helped raise our children and finished my employed work?
     Probably most people adapt to retirement and it is most frequently a satisfactory experience. However others, like myself, seek to postpone retirement. I have resisted mandatory retirement for the last five years. It’s not that I hate retirement it’s that I want to control my own life.
     Of course, it’s not that retirement is benign or neutral in its effects.  Looking at retired people’s behavior at the Senior’s Centre, where I volunteer, indicates that individuals are striving to manage their transitions and creating a sense of continuity, gratification, or fulfillment within their retired status.
     So the question arises; how do we regard the possibilities that come with retirement? One report comes from Weiss’ (2005) who found that people reported being ambivalent about retired life.  While increased personal time is the great benefit of not working and we may leave stressful work behind, we also miss some opportunities for specific forms of achievement.
      We may also become more socially isolated.  Even though I have only been working ½ time of the past several years, Elizabeth and I struggle to revaluate our habits of togetherness and separation.  We also need to develop other sources of income; my pension isn’t big enough. And we will continually work at figuring out who we are and who cares.
     Freedman (2007) argues that retirement wastes ‘human capital” that could become a powerful social force. He detects, among the current and approaching cohort of retirees, a latent potential for altruism (as revealed in surveys) that could be channeled to community service. If shown how, many Boomers  “…are prepared to swap a lifestyle for a life” One important consequence of third-age idealism, in or out of the labor force, would be political activity for the soon-retiring baby boomers who would be seen as contributing to, rather than living off, younger generations.  They can live out in the third age, the values they endorsed as young adults
     To sum it up, the question is, will baby boom retirees incline toward more civic engagement than previous cohorts. Perhaps the brevity of lifetime is at the heart of it. I have had more thoughts about how much longer I have to live in the last several months than the last several years.
      I believe that we should see retired life and the third age less fundamentally as transitions and more as a new personal frontier


  1. Since I work in the non-profit sector, I see first-hand some of those who have retired from their for-profit sector jobs - they have opted to spend their 'retirement' working for those organizations that espouse the values they likely had as young adults. They do not earn nearly what they had earned but their satisfaction is much greater. Others have a passion for vounteering in this area.

  2. I guess I see retirement as some kind of experiment where I am both the lab rat and the researcher. To me retirement is a good time to look at your lifestyle and redesign it, dropping what you had to do in your working/familly-raising phase that no longer makes sense and adding things that excite and energize you.

  3. Machiel,
    Thank you for your many responses. I am just getting the hang of the blog and only began reading your comments this afternoon. For a while there I felt like I was standing on an empty island. Even though people have been reading the stuff, almost no one has had anything to say