Some of us may have heard stories of people who die within a year of retirement. In the modern world, the word “retirement” is being redefined and can mean a new beginning for many rather than the beginning of the end. There is an expression that says the day you stop living is the day you start dying.
There was a time that most Americans retired in their 60s and looked forward to some quiet leisure time in their “golden years.” They prepared to glide onto the front porch rocker and make birdhouses and knit blankets.
But with an increasing number of people living closer to 90 and even 100, traditional retirement isn’t always practical. I have heard from many people who retire in their 60s or 70s and then get bored after a few years of “leisure.” Many people today want to stay more engaged in life and work. And there is research telling us that that is a healthy thing to do.
So does that mean another few decades of hard labor if your work is a drudge? Not at all. Folks are “retiring” from one career such as teaching, banking or plumbing and transitioning into the next active phase of their life. In some cases this involves taking up a whole new career. Often it’s something they “always wanted to do” or thought “would be fun.” It may just be something new to learn and do such as starting a small business, attending culinary school, or becoming an active volunteer or employee with projects that they are passionate about.
And while some folks may need to continue working for financial reasons, others desire to maintain the same lifestyle they are accustomed to rather than scaling back. They want to take nice vacations, eat in nice restaurants, etc. The evidence is telling us that people who stay more fully engaged in life and work are happier and maintain more physical and cognitive ability.
But staying fully engaged in life is not just about working longer. For some it could be going back to college whether to retrain or just to learn more about themselves and the world. Education is a gift you give yourself at any stage of life. It might be joining a writing group and working on that novel or memoir even if it’s just for your family to read. It could even be starting a catering business or party planning service.
But don’t wait until you “retire” to decide what to do next. Start reading and researching now and talking to people doing things you’re interested in. Rather than preparing to fade away, make plans to reinvent yourself for the next phase of life. So now that you’re grownup, what do you want to be?