There are two ways to look at retirement—gray and silver.
So much of what we assume about this stage of life comes from what happened to Mom and Dad or Grandpa. They retired and traveled. They retired and took up woodworking…or quilting….or golf. They retired and took a backseat to what was going on in the rest of the world. They retired and pretty much disappeared. Gray isn’t very noticeable. Or very interesting. Eventually, they were gone but usually long after they’d been forgotten by the culture.
Is this approach unavoidable? Is it what’s going on with people who retire now?
Only if they choose it. There are a lot more options than moving to Tucson or playing bridge five days a week.
The traditional version of retirement is built on the concept of “the Golden Years” which was given to us as a culture by Del Webb in 1960 as part of the inaugural marketing effort for the first Sun City, a retirement community outside of Phoenix, Arizona. It was a way to put a positive spin on a very negative situation. At that time, American workers were required to retire at a certain age and once they did, society pretty much forgot them. Webb and others turned this invisibility into the idea that retirement was time to play—that retirees have earned the chance to have fun all day every day. A life of 100% leisure.
To those still working, this sounds like Nirvana, but as a lifestyle, it can be grim. Not even children play all day every day. Not having a purpose or a way to contribute creates a vast array of health problems–both mental and physical–for individuals and robs society of their talents and skill.
But this mindset continues because many believe:
• People old enough to retire are frail–in poor health, with no stamina, and physically unable to do much of what younger people can.
• They are short-term members of society; they will either die or enter a nursing home (and then die) in a few years or even months.
• They’re inept–“out of it” the vast majority of the time, with no idea what’s going on in the world and no ability to do much about it anyway.
• They’re irrelevant or worse, a burden–nothing they do has impact beyond their own lives. Many of them can’t even take care of themselves.
This is the GRAY version of retired life. Lifeless, fading, dull. Also WRONG.
NONE of this is mandatory, necessary, or wise. It’s baloney. The truth about people old enough to retire is much less limiting. But to get to where we really can go, we have to embrace a new set of assumptions:
• At this age, we are still robust . The vast majority who elect to retire are at the top of their game. Physically, they are in better shape than their parents were even at ten years younger.
• We are stepping into a long-term stage of life. Those now retiring are likely to be around at least another fifteen years and more likely twenty-five to thirty. Those who retire at 55 could easily spend more time retired than they did in the workforce.
• We are a significant segment of the population. In numbers. In buying power. And if we take the time to plan for it, in the roles we take on and the challenges we step up to for our families, communities, and society as a whole.
• We are energized. The chance to do things we believe in with the flexibility to accommodate all the other things we value is revitalizing. This age group has the potential to recharge both ourselves and our communities—and whatever else we decide to take on. We can have “the good life” and “do good” at the same time. We are in a position to give but also to take the time to enjoy what life has to offer.
This version of retirement is SILVER—sparkling and full of energy. Retirement, using this set of assumptions, is the time of life when we really can have it all.
Why settle for gray when silver is just a matter of mindset? The choice is unavoidable–and yours.