Retirement Life Matters

Retirement is no longer the end of the line, but a new beginning, according to Cathy Severson. My special guest 8/3/10 @ Noon ET (9:00 AM PT)
Here’s some interesting information from Cathy that she will discuss.
Retirement and aging have been thought of as a time of decline. Psychologists now believe that aging provides opportunity for personal growth and development.
With the extended life span has come the concept of the Third Age. The primary opportunity of Third Age is to live from the inside out.
While 75% of baby boomer’s report wanting to work passed retirement age, it’s not business as usual. They are looking for work that is fun, personally fulfilling and makes a difference.
Q. How is the concept of retirement changing?
A. Many people don’t know retirement came into existence in 1933 with the passage of the Social Security Act. The country was deep into the depression with an unemployment rate of 25%. President Roosevelt was concerned about rioting in the streets. Social Security was used to entice older men to retire, so younger workers would be employed. The reason lawmakers elected age 65 for retirement that was the average lifespan of the time.
Another thing has changed since then. Starting with Freud, most psychologists believed that human development ended by the early twenties. Not much growth occurred after adolescence. Aging was perceived as a time of decline.
Developmental psychologists have changed their ideas in the last generation. No longer is older adulthood thought to be a time of decline but actually one of personal development that is now referred to as the Third Age and Second Growth.
Q. Can you explain more about Third Age?
We are living in a most amazing period of time. Never before in the history of the human race have a significant percentage of people lived beyond their biological mandate.
For those of us who were around in the sixties, whether you participated in the drugs and rock and roll or not, you may remember that we were going to live life differently.
Then something happened. The one thing we swore wasn’t going to happen, we became our parents. We went out and got jobs, had babies, built homes in the suburbs. No matter how much we wanted to deny it, that biological urge was too much to ignore.
First age is learning or being a student.
Second age is being a worker and member of society. It is the age of achievement and acquisition.
Third Age is about self-actualizing, or living authentically. Third Age is about releasing the roles and externals that defined second age.
Adolescence was developed at the end of the nineteenth century. Before then you went from being a child to an adult. Third Age is actually being developed as the life span increases.
Q. What are the five keys to a satisfying retirement?
A. Well-being is about living in the now, accepting yourself and others, taking care of yourself. As we stated before, shifting from an external to an internal orientation.
I ask people to make a list of all the externals we use to define ourselves; our bodies, minds, roles, jobs, stuff acquired. These things aren’t bad, except when our identity is tied to them.
Decline has always meant the loss of roles. But, it is through this loss of roles that we become free to truly be ourselves.
The activities we engage in, whether work, hobbies, play, volunteering are opportunities for us to express our true selves.
Staying connected. This is probably the number one reason people go back to work. They miss feeling connected and supported to others.
Play – Baby Boomers have forgotten how to play. They know how to indulge, but they’ve forgotten the childlike spontaneity of discovery, and enjoyment of being in the moment.
Challenges – Human beings need to be stimulated. We need to take risks and get outside our comfort zone. All the information that is coming out about the brain talks about how important it is to keep the brain active.
Meaning – Finally, we need to know our lives matter. This means being involved in something bigger than ourselves.
Q. How do these keys help people create a fulfilling retirement?
Instead of retiring away from life, baby boomers are looking for new ways to stay active and involved.
While 77% of baby boomers report they are going to continue to work into retirement, the focus for many is shifting from earning a living to work that is more about their purpose.
As baby boomers are entering their fifties and sixties, their children are going off on their own and the old itch to make a difference is returning.
For example, I had a client recently who retired at 51 from the entertainment industry. He would still like to earn some money, but is more concerned about finding work that is meaningful and about making a contribution.
We’re told by the media that baby boomers want to have an extended vacation for thirty years, but if you talk to baby boomers, most do not want a retirement like their parents.
The problem arises because most people don’t know how to make that transition. We’ve been so programmed to want it all, it’s hard to give that up.
Q. So, what do baby boomers want?
A. They want to know their lives have meaning. We’re told by the media that baby boomers want non-stop play. Don’t get me wrong. They want to have it all, but I see more and more people realize that 20 or 30 years of golf may not be satisfying.
The problem is they don’t know what will be satisfying. Many people are burned out from the stress of every day life and even though they like their work, they’re ready for a change.
Q. How do people successfully make the transition to retirement?
A. It’s really a two fold operation. The first part is a willingness to be comfortable with not knowing. We’ve gotten the idea that having a purpose is about something big that is “out there”, but it’s just a little voice that’s inside saying we’re living authentically. People need to be willing to spend time listening to that voice.
The other part is a willingness to explore options and take risks. I had a wise minister once who said, “You can’t find Mr. Right sitting in your room with the doors locked and window shades drawn.’’ The same goes for purpose.
I’ve seen people make a list of activities and then go through each one and say, “No, that’s not my purpose, or that’s not my passion.” People need to get out, talk to others, take classes, volunteer, experiment and experience. Unfortunately, that’s all easier said than done. If you worked the same job for 20-30 years, lived in the same house, had the same friends, trying new things can be very daunting.
Q. What should they do?
A. Just as with any other major transition or change, a major key is having support. That was one of the reasons we decided to build our new website was to create a place where people could come together to share experiences and learn from each other.
Another thing is to just get in the habit of taking risks. Some think that humans prefer to do nothing when actually it’s quite the opposite. The human brain feels most alive when there is a challenge or a risk involved. The brain is like a muscle. If it hasn’t been used for a while, it may be sore at first and hard to use, but with time, it’ll get in shape.
Baby boomers want more options as they get older. They want meaningful experiences. For example, when they volunteer, they are not content to stuff envelops, but want to know that what they do is making a difference.
There seems to be a sense from many baby boomers that there is still a legacy that was started in the sixties that needs to be fulfilled. It seems many of us got sidetracked with making money and raising our families. People are looking for new ways in which they can impact the world.
Q. Give examples of how retirees are creating fulfilling lives.
Some are choosing work mostly for fun. JJ was a production supervisor at a plant in the valley and now works 3-4 days a week as an extra for television and movies.
Then there is Bill, a retired fireman who loves people and driving. When they need to move a fire truck from the east coast to the west, he drives it across the country. He also started a business driving people to the airport. He uses their car, drives them to the front gate and then when they return, he picks them up in their car and drives them home. His business has grown entirely by word of mouth.
Most often, work starts off small and then grows. I met a therapist who went to Africa on vacation, came home and started a foundation to help people in Tanzania. Now, when she isn’t working at her job, every minute is devoted to her foundation–raising money to help people in Africa.
Q. Do you have other examples?
Roseanne Salvo runs four discussion groups in California every single week, fifty-two weeks out of the year. I think she takes the major holidays off, but other than that, she is there.
They discuss books, culture, the arts and current events. When I asked her if she wanted to travel, she said no, she’d done that in her former life running an art gallery. She believes she needs to provide the consistency of the “being there” every week. Shehad one man who came every week for months and wouldn’t say a word. Then one day, he showed up and poured his heart out. She said he had no other place to share his feelings.
Roseanne is an example of someone who had an interest, in this case the arts and her discussion groups evolved out of it.
The problem arises when someone wants to do something differently, but doesn’t know what it is they want to do or how to get started.
Be sure to join us Tuesday, August 3rd. at Noon ET (9:00 AM PT) for more on how Retirement Life Matters.
America’s #1 Caregiving Expert

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