Reinvent in retirement
Author’s advice for a balanced and happy retirement
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 naturalhappiness.net For more information on International Day of Older Persons, visit un.org/en/ events/olderpersonsday/