As you like it

Herald­ing the UN In­ter­na­tional Day of Older Per­sons this month, here’s how you can make re­tire­ment work for you

Somerset Life - - RETIREMENT - WORDS: Alan Heeks

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.

ABOVE:It’s key to find the right bal­ance in re­tire­ment

Dis­cover a sense of ad­ven­ture in re­tire­ment

Alan Heeks

RIGHT:Now is the time to ex­pe­ri­ence some­thing new

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