Retirement Isn't What It Used to Be!

Don't mention the R word

Don't mention 'the R word'!

I’ve had a problem with the word “retirement” for quite some time but things really came to head recently while looking for images to accompany this blog. Because THIS – (eyes right) THIS was the first image I was presented with!

Really? THIS is representative of retirement…. cups of tea and slippers? I dread to think what would come up if I typed in pensioner! I can’t even bring myself to go there!

Watch the video or scroll down to read more.

It's time for a re-brand!!

According to Ernest Hemmingway, “retirement” is the most depressing word in the English language… and I think he may have a point! The dictionary defines retirement as an ending, a conclusion, a termination, seclusion… which doesn’t exactly sound like a bundle of laughs does it?  

But I wonder what he’d think now because the retirement landscape has evolved and changed beyond recognition over the past few decades.

Official retirement ages have been steadily changing in response to our increasing longevity but those with workplace or personal pensions now have the choice to retire without waiting until their designated pension age of 66.  Retirement no longer means having to leave the world of work behind forever with many choosing ‘semi-retirement’ and electing to do some form of work even after they have officially ‘retired’. And then there are others who plan on working as long as possible, seeing no compelling reason to do otherwise.  

Things have certainly changed from our parent’s day when retirement offered very little in terms of new opportunities and was more often than not, an unfortunate prelude to a loss of identity, meaning, and purpose.  Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration perhaps but you get what I mean – retirement meant something completely different THEN to what it does NOW.

It’s reached a point where the lingering, negative connotations of the past are becoming increasingly problematic for many Third Agers, with some resolutely refusing to use ‘the R word’ at ALL because it just doesn’t represent who they are and what they want for this dynamic new life chapter. 

  • It’s time to reshape the narrative in response to how retirement has changed and evolved.
  • It’s time for “retirement” to be rebranded and given a make-over!
  • It’s time for “retirement” to be positioned as a unique period of possibility and opportunity.

'Retirement' no longer represents what we want for our next chapter

One thing’s for sure –   retirement isn’t what it used to be!

The old, traditional views of retirement are being swept away as today’s 60-somethings set about reshaping this life stage by putting things like fulfilment, purpose, enjoyment and flexibility at its heart. 

They’re choosing to enroll on courses… explore their creativity… embark on “encore” careers… fight for causes in which they believe or reinvest the skills accrued over a lifetime into their communities by volunteering, mentoring and campaigning.

The options are as mixed and varied as the people who choose them. 

But what do they all have in common?

Freedom of choice. 

Freedom to work… or not. Freedom to venture into pastures new… or not. Freedom to choose exactly HOW you want to spend your time, money and energy. Now if that doesn’t sound like something pretty wonderful, I don’t know what does.

No wonder those who now see this life stage as an opportunity for change, growth and reinvention, balk at the very word ‘retirement’! 

A significant life transition into unchartered territory

The whole concept of retirement has been revolutionised in the space of a generation but one thing’s still the same: it remains one of THE most significant life transitions we’re required to navigate as adults.

If you type the word “retirement” into Google you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s all about money or financial planning. And of course this is important but there are other HUGELY important aspects of retirement beyond getting the finances right, not least of which is the psychological transition we’re required to make.

No two people’s Third Age will look the same because we all want different things and while we are extremely fortunate to have so many opportunities,  (And by the way, if you haven’t done so already, take a look at the checklist: Are You Retirement Ready? it’s a great place to start.)

How would YOU like to rebrand retirement?

What does the concept/word “retirement” mean to you?  Does it adequately represent your reality?

 If we want to change the narrative, it’s up to us to tell the story of our new reality and start re-branding retirement!

Companies rebrand all the time…. old products disappear to be replaced with “new and improved” versions. Why not retirement?

I’ve been challenging the stereotypes about what we can and can’t do as we get older for the whole of my coaching career and redefining the concept of retirement needs to be part of that. Finding a word or phrase that defines the “new and improved” version of retirement would be a start…. any suggestions gratefully received!  

In the meantime, I’ll finish with this recent quote from the brilliant Serena Williams who said:

“I have never liked the word retirement. Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution. I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me.”


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