What Retirement and Old Age hold for me

Key Concept

Our lives are about change and throughout our life we are changing. We are changing in the way we see the world and in the way we respond to the world. At different ages, different things happen to us and as we develop, our attitudes and our beliefs change. So change is normal!


To start to get an understanding about how you see yourself in post-retirement and to consider some of the things that will change as your new life kicks-in.

The Impact of Retirement and Old Age

For many of us, our retirement and old age planning has been about ensuring that there is enough money to see us through. More often than not, we give scant attention to the emotional impact of retirement and old age.


Retirement used to be a 5 year, post work, holiday comprising a generous mix of golf, gardening and grand-kids. Now it is a 20 – 25 year, third phase of our life; a time to do all the things we didn’t have time to do because of our busy-busy lives. But when we look at those 25 years, two scenarios arise.

One shows people like Jane Fonda looking fantastic at 70, Noam Chomsky challenging the status quo at age 85 and God only knows how – Keith Richards alive and well and rocking at 70. All advertising about post-retirement paints a picture of contentment, sunset strolls on the beach and happy fun times with friends and family.

The other picture isn't so rosy. We see photographs of “old people” living in old-age homes, sitting in the corner,  waiting day after day for someone to come and visit – the days stretching out ahead with nothing to do - just waiting to die. We fear the physical degeneration, wearing nappies again, needing someone to wipe our bum; and Alzheimer’s is an ever present dread. As for having enough money – most of us don’t!  And there is an unspoken message about retirement – that our useful life is over!

That scenario is too scary to contemplate so we close our mind to it. We are the Baby-boomers, the most goal directed, positive-thinking generation in the history of the planet – so naturally, we see ours as the first scenario. We'll be fine - and if things don’t turn out too well we can always “make a plan”.

But, let’s get real for a moment. Wishful thinking isn’t good enough. Retirement is a major transition and it needs some respect.

For a quick overview of what to consider – What is this thing called Retirement?

It begins with an Ending – the end of being needed at the office, the end of our social group at work, the end of our status at the office, the end of our authority and ability to take charge, the end of having deadlines that must be met and the end of getting a regular, decent salary.

That ending drives us into a period of inner contemplation - without my status, position and title – who am I? What am I going to do when I don’t have anything to do? Those aches and pains; what are they, what’s happening to me? Perhaps I’m not immortal after all!

From there we can create a new beginning and a vision for our retirement - what is my retirement and old age really going to be like?

Click here for more information about these Phases of Transition.

For most of us, the last time we had to make such life forming plans and decisions was when we were teenagers – it was that teenager who decided what career we were going to follow and how we were going to live our life.

What Retirement holds for me?

In the modern, western world, Retirement is equated with old age, with being “past it”. A time to be put out to pasture, until sooner or later we shuffle off this “mortal coil” and leave the world to the young.

View this TED Talk by Jane Fonda below. Although she is talking to women, everything she says applies equally to men.


Childhood was a period of awakening. Adulthood was where we tested our limits, as partners, parents, colleagues and friends. Elderhood is our opportunity to live a life built on our experience and to give back to the generations behind us. And the good news is – much of aging is optional

  • 50% of illnesses and injuries can be eliminated by changing lifestyle
  • 70% of premature death is lifestyle related
  • 70% of decay associated with aging can be forestalled by lifestyle changes
  • 70% of all cancers are lifestyle / environment related

To support these stats, have a look at this TED Talk by Dean Ornish

Above all else, we want to Achieve Happiness.

How is our retirement different to our parents’ retirement?

Retirement has evolved – until the early 1800s there was no concept of retirement. You worked until you dropped or until you were too weak to be useful. Then you died.

With the Industrial revolution came the idea of pensioning off the older employees to create opportunities for younger ones to move up the ladder. If one is cynical, it also got rid of less productive older people. They then had a few years of “settling back”. Then they died.

In the 1970s, when our parents went into retirement, retirees were funded by generous pension funds, they had enjoyed a life of more income than expenditure and they lived for 15 or more years post-retirement. For them the dreams of travel to exotic places, leisure time to enjoy their grandchildren and following their hobbies, was a reality. And if you couldn't afford all of that, it was understood that you would sit in the sun and enjoy your twilight years.

The fourth age of retirement has just begun. We are the generation that created the world the way we now find it – both good and bad. We have been a self-made, goal orientated, driven, take-no-prisoners generation and, with modern medicines and treatments we are likely to live ‘till 90! And to confuse things further - we can define our age in different ways.

So what does this New Retirement look like?

The most significant change is an internal one –to create a life of purpose. If you live for only 5 years post-retirement, golf every day is a very attractive option. If you live for 25 years post-retirement, golf isn’t going to sustain you. So the question is  - “What is going to get me out of bed every day and what is going to fill those hours before I get back into bed?”

As men and women reach their 60s and 70s, they, more often than not, are seen as useless (other than necessary for babysitting duties). They are closeted away in retirement homes and they no longer play an active role in society. However the first of the Baby-Boomers started retiring in 2011.

Born in the 40s and 50s, theirs is the ideology of the 60s and 70s and the achievements of the 80s and 90s. They aren’t going to go quietly. They (some anyway) have money and now they have leisure and they intend to make the most of it – through travel, further education and pursuit of their passions.

What could be missing is purpose. How are they going to add value?  One way is to keep on working. Another is to be of service. Depending on their circumstances this could be paid or unpaid. For some, payment might come through consulting, for others, through a hobby or skill that has developed over the years. For those who don’t need payment, their value may come through volunteering or charity work. Already, retirees add Billions to world economies. And for the rich, there is philanthropy.

There are 2 key subjects we have to consider :-

  1. What is your purpose in your retirement, what value will you bring, what legacy, in terms of your impact on society, will you leave? How do we want to be remembered? Without purpose, your life expectancy is drastically reduced.


  1. How will you design your retirement – not just what will you do, but what form will it take? A talk by Tim Brown, calls upon us to participate in the Design of Retirement.  Currently we have Retirement Homes and Villages that hide old people away from the world. In the next 10 years approximately 100 million Baby Boomers in the western world are going to retire. There is a need to design new retirement models because the old ones are obsolete – from where we live, to how we spend our time. Do we want to travel, study, start a new venture? How do we stay fit and healthy, what lifestyle behaviours do we need to change or adopt? And if our Pension is insufficient, how do we fund the things we want to do?

So retirement is no longer sitting back and watching the world roll by – it is about creating a life-style that makes a difference and brings us joy and fulfilment.


A cautionary word

Modern medicine has given us a 2 edged sword; an increased likelihood of 20 additional years of life - but they are old-age years. Through modern surgery and medication we have been given the opportunity to live into frailty and old age.

Our lifestyle and the way we look after our physical and mental health becomes critical to our well-being in that old age. So it is essential that our planning for retirement includes an overall health plan.

The modules that make up our New Beginning have been developed to help you create that health plan.

Discussion Assignment – What retirement holds for me

Without giving it too much thought, write some notes on how you see your retirement. Try not to let your head, your good intentions and your hopes dominate your notes. Rather, concentrate on how you feel. Is it something you are looking forward to, or is it something that carries negative thoughts and emotions for you?

Discussion Forum

Next module - Passing the Wisdom On

A significant role we can play as we get older is as a Mentor, Coach and Elder. That sounds fine - but how? Like all activities that involve human relations, there are skills that need to be acquired and of course, we need to identify what the good stuff is that we can pass on.

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