Globally, the population is ageing. In New Zealand, it is predicted a fifth of us will be over 65 years of age by 2034. Traditionally, when we reached 65, it was the magic age when many of us made the transition into what we call ‘Retirement’, as it’s the age at which we are entitled to universal superannuation. It’s an old model. The practice of exiting the workplace after reaching a certain age and entering the life stage we call ‘Retirement’ was introduced in the 18th Century and was more widely adopted in the 19th and 20th Century.
Nowadays, there is no compulsory ‘Retirement Age’ in Aotearoa. In the 21st Century ‘Retirement’, or ‘Semi-Retirement’ as a life stage, means different things to different people. While some remain in paid work on either a full or part-time basis, many look forward to exiting the workplace and giving up the daily commute. ‘Retirement’ commences immediately after leaving the workplace. Initially we may look forward to taking a well-earned rest and spending more time with the important people in our lives. Travel may be planned, new routines are established, and we begin to focus time and energy on the activities we enjoy.
However, over time this old concept of ‘Retirement’ may not meet everyone’s expectations, intensified with the impact of the COVID pandemic. We may experience disappointment, uncertainty, a lack of purpose, poor health, financial insecurity, loneliness and/or sadness – maybe through loss of a loved one. It’s vital that if we find ourselves in this situation we shift out of this phase, develop an attitude of gratitude, and take control of our wellbeing in later life. Expressing a sense of gratitude enhances positive emotions and increases self-esteem. Give it a go. Make a long list of all the things you are grateful for and add to this list daily. Savour your experiences, life’s lessons, the people you have met along the way, and boost overall wellbeing.
It’s time to ‘Reframe Retirement’ and celebrate longevity by reminding ourselves that chronological age is just a number, not an impediment. It’s our functional age that matters. How we feel about ageing, impacts on how we age. We have so many choices on how we spend our time and a duty to ourselves to age as well as we can. We can meet new people, try new activities, visit, or invite old friends around for a meal, learn new skills, share our experiences, document our memories or family history, volunteer or take on a significant project at any age. It’s up to each of us to make the most of our extended lifespans. After all, life is a gift for us to enjoy, and later life can be even more fulfilling than what has gone before.
Go well and enjoy the adventure.
Dr. Angela Robertson is the author of six books, an inspirational speaker, and workshop facilitator with a wealth of experience in maximising individual and collective potential. Through her writing and speaking engagements she encourages people, regardless of their age and stage, to continually expand their horizons, leverage their strengths, and channel their energy into activities that matter. Her books are available from online stores in paperback, e-book and kindle formats.