By Bill Storie
“Analysis of historic census records reveals the majority of over-65s in Victorian England worked full-time” – Ancestry.com
I’ve been doing some research into retirement issues and what people do with themselves in retirement. It was prompted by a good friend of mine who recently retired for his final time (I think he had a couple of test runs at it before this, but this time it seems to be sticking !!).
A couple of days after he retired I e-mailed him and asked how this retirement gig was going, and he said his biggest concern is what to do with all this time. Granted he has grandchildren and his wife is still actively engaged, so he does have things to do, but compared to a full-time job he has oodles of free time.
Which got me thinking whether this is a burden or a pleasure.
All our lives, most people yearn for the time when they can sit back, do nothing all day, and if they don’t get “nothing” done today, they can carry it forward to tomorrow.
It is a challenge I agree. If you were very active and busy and running all over the place before retirement, then the change takes a lot of getting accustomed to, and there really are 24 hours in a day – every day. Taking a nap in the afternoon sounds cool until you find out that when you go to bed at night, the chances are high that come 3 in the morning, you’ll be wide awake.
Clock-watching becomes an art form. Guessing if it has moved forwards 20 minutes or 30 or even 45 is a kind of Sudoku mind-bending exercise. Knowing that clocks don’t run backwards doesn’t help either !!
Young folks, and people still employed, are of course conscious of time – “I wish it was 5 o’clock” ; “I can’t wait for the weekend” ; “Not long until my vacation”. That’s ok, but they do know what has to be done today, tomorrow, or until that vacation. The road map is laid out for them.
Not so the retiree.
Hours merge into days which merge into weeks and months. Unless there is a plan of things to do, then the retirement years are burdensome. They really are.
Anyhoo, back to the research.
Before we had standard pensions and retirement age, most people, if health permitted, just kept on working. There was no quitting the day job and chilling out.
A huge part of that apparent decision was money. Simply put, if they didn’t keep working, they would have no money.
Can you actually imagine that dilemma…?
Back then the “Symbolic 65” was nothing more than a birthday. So there was no anticipation of reaching retirement age, and more to the point there was no retirement planning and no need to think about what to do in retirement. You just kept going.
So even if the mind and body were starting to break down, as inevitably they would, there was no choice but to get up every day and go to work. That feeling, especially as agility and stress and tiredness would have been increasing, must have been very depressing. And if the family depended on you to bring home the money for food, shelter and clothing, then the psychological “luggage” must have been very heavy indeed.
So, is retirement time a pleasure or a burden…?
Those not retired I suspect will have a completely different response to that than those of us who watch clocks.. !!!
By Bill Storie