Seniors asking ‘what’s next?’
When we are children, all we want to do is get bigger, to grow up. It might start with wanting to get on the bus with the other kids going to school. Then we look forward to riding a twowheeler. And on it goes.
In high school, we might anticipate making the team, attaining good grades, or attending our first prom. After graduation, we seek out higher education or learn skills to aid us in our careers as young adults.
Always we are yearning for the next big step, the next exciting and new change, to achieve the next goal. For many of us, our lives follow a somewhat predictable course with education, relationships, marriage and children. One day we realize that we are grown up. We have attained our goals and are living grown up lives. We may have random thoughts about retiring “someday” and we might wonder about our financial security. We may even participate in a seminar about retirement planning.
It is only recently that older adults have begun to wish for more.
Following the Great Depression and the Second World War, a dramatic time of change and transformation occurred in North America. This new life stage known as “retirement” was not necessarily a preferred destination. It suggested the end of more than just paid employment and older people were considered a huge social problem.
Perspectives began to change with the baby boomers. This cohort doesn’t want to get old, but if it has no choice, it wants the very best old age can offer.
Today there is a period of time that comes between middle age and old age. This generally occurs between age 55 and 80 and usually begins with retirement, or the end of paid employment. For people with relatively good health this represents an extremely large portion of time. It has been said that today’s seniors may be retired for more years than the length of time they were part of the paid workforce. It’s no wonder that people are asking: “What’s next?” There are so many possibilities for older adults that didn’t exist for previous generations. The Grand River Council on Aging call these the “golden opportunities.” Today there is a spirit of optimism, hope and expectation that suggests new and enriching experiences as we age. People are waking up to the fact that the upside of aging is the gift of time.
Barry Rand, chief executive officer of AARP in the U.S., once said: “We are transforming our ideas, attitudes and practices around aging. We are seeing the emergence of a different set of expectations, and of practices, skills and purposes, that will massively alter the landscape of life after 50.”
Today’s retirees have the talent and time to make a difference and many are searching for engagement and commitment that will allow them to remain connected with their communities.
A few years ago, people planning for retirement were advised to focus on their anticipated financial needs for the time period following their paid employment. Retirement seminars sprang up around the country, and banks and other financial institutions began to offer financial planning to their customers.
The focus then was to encourage people to “save for a rainy day” to ensure adequate funds on which to live when they retired.
Now, those planning for life after paid employment can focus on what they want to do with the rest of their lives.
For some, it’s an opportunity to embark upon a second career. For some it might be a chance to spend more time with grandchildren and great grandchildren. For others, it’s time to travel and see the world.
Many retirees today spend countless hours volunteering their time and talents to countless non-profit, charitable organizations. There are intergenerational activities and events on offer. Others go back to school or find part-time employment to learn new fields of study or explore other emerging interests.
Experts refer to this gift of time as the “second act” or the “encore act.” It can be a time of excitement, enrichment and enhancement. For perhaps the first time in their lives, older adults can spend their time doing what they want to do.
Whatever choices you make through your middle years, we hope you have fun. You’ve worked hard all your lives and now it’s your turn.