Rein­vent in re­tire­ment

Au­thor’s ad­vice for a bal­anced and happy re­tire­ment

Hertfordshire Life - - CONTENTS -

If you’re over 60, you can prob­a­bly re­call a tra­di­tional re­tire­ment when peo­ple stopped work at 60 or 65, af­ter decades of loyal ser­vice to one em­ployer, and re­ceived a gold watch or crys­tal vase. These days, that is a real rar­ity, and re­tire­ment ap­proaches (and is greeted) in all man­ner 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 the 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 Per­sons on Oc­to­ber 1, here are my top tips for mak­ing re­tire­ment a sat­is­fy­ing, re­ward­ing and joy­ous time.

1 Value your­self and 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. Yes, their im­pact can be lon­glast­ing!

2 Bal­ance your needs with those of oth­ers

Many peo­ple find they have more du­ties than ever af­ter re­tire­ment, such as help­ing age­ing rel­a­tives 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 money to peo­ple who are less for­tu­nate.

3 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 path through any ten­sions.

4 Have an ad­ven­ture, rein­vent 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 el­ders played in tra­di­tional so­ci­ety, and how we can rein­vent these for to­day. Part of this is valu­ing the wis­dom life has brought you, and find­ing ways for it to help oth­ers.

RIGHT:Pass­ing on skills – an im­por­tant (and of­ten un­der­val­ued) role in older age

ABOVE:With the likely bar­rage of calls on your time, it’s key to find space for you

(Re)dis­cover a sense of ad­ven­ture

Alan Heeks’ new book Not Fade Away: Stay­ing happy when you’re over 64! is a short, prac­ti­cal guide to cre­ative age­ing. Find out more on­line at nat­u­ral­hap­pi­ For more in­for­ma­tion on In­ter­na­tional Day of Older Per­sons, visit events/old­er­per­sons­day/

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