As you like it
Heralding the UN International Day of Older Persons this month, here’s how you can make retirement work for you
If you’re over 60 now, you can probably recall a traditional retirement where someone stopped work at 60 or 65, after decades of loyal service to one employer, and received a gold watch or crystal vase. These days, you can shape retirement in all kinds of ways.
Creative ageing has been a big interest for me for the past eight years: I’ve spoken with lots of people, led workshops, done research, and written two self-help books on this theme. My main conclusion is that the older generation has huge freedom of choice, but we need help to know our freedom, and we need new skills to use it. Marking International Day of Older People on Monday 1 October, here are my top tips for making retirement work for you...
Value yourself, set your own norms: Mainstream society and the media show little appreciation or support for older people. It’s vital for your wellbeing that you value yourself, and keep choosing an attitude of gratitude for everything that’s good in your life. Don’t judge yourself by other people’s standards – especially those of your parents!
Balance your needs and others: Many people find they have more duties than ever after retirement, such as helping ageing parents and growing grandchildren, or doing invaluable voluntary work. Staying active and helping others is great, but recognise that you have a right to some free time, and scope to rest and relax. Today’s older generation is relatively the most affluent ever, so another balance to find is between spending to enjoy yourself, and giving some money to people who are less fortunate.
Keep learning and growing: I’ve learned a lot from people older than me, including my 95-year-old mother, who was volunteering in a hospice at 92. It’s natural that there are losses and challenges in growing older, but see this life stage as a learning adventure: you can help yourself, and set an example for others. The idea of learning new skills in your vintage years may be surprising, but I think it’s crucial. For example, how to make new friends, and how to sustain a friendship and negotiate a way through any tensions.
Have an adventure and re-invent yourself: In later life, the roles that have defined us seem to fade away – parent, breadwinner, homemaker.
Instead of feeling lost as a result of this, take it as a chance to explore who you choose to be in your older years. For example, my book explores the valuable roles that the elders played in traditional society, and how we can re-invent these for today. Part of this is valuing the wisdom life has brought you, and finding ways for it to help others.
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