The Changing Face of Retirement by Bill Storie
I remember when I was a wee boy in Scotland that the word “retirement” was rarely used.
In fact, I would estimate that I perhaps heard it used a handful of times only. Of course, as a youngster such serious matters were usually kept away from the kids. Yet, my mother was, in particular, a very open-minded person who embraced the idea of information and opinion-sharing. In fact, her father, my grandfather, had been in politics, and because of that, she would discuss with me, from an early age, the merits or demerits of issues of the day. I am clear that had I entered politics – as I was given a wonderful opportunity at age fifteen to do so – she would have been thrilled to bits.
Yet, in all those fireside discussions and debates, with her, my father, my aunt and uncle, and their friends, I rarely recall discussion about retirement. I have no recollection of pension plans being discussed. I have no recollection of travel plans or volunteering. I have no recollection of longevity being aired. I have no recollection of long-term health care. None.
It is my belief that men and women at that time, around the early 1950s, certainly in Scotland, did not have any expectations of long life and if they did reach the retirement age of sixty-five, they would think about it then. But few of them had such expectations. There was a silent understanding that they would, in all probability, not reach sixty-five, far less an even longer life. Therefore, why plan for something that wouldn’t happen?
Yet here we are today, some sixty or so years later when the word retirement is on everyone’s lips. Back then a 35-year old talking about retirement was laughed at. Now, that 35-year old sees retirement planning as critical (or they should be thinking about it). It is not such a daft idea to be planning early.
In fact, we are now so advanced that we find that the demographics have changed so significantly that the retirement community is becoming the most populated community on earth.
Every health care organization, every pension provider, every investment manager all use the word “retirement” in their everyday discussions. Brochure after brochure after podcast after video-cast after television program, all focus on retirement issues. Politicians fret over what to do with the old folks.
The fact is that the pendulum has swung so far that if you are not thinking about retirement lifestyles you are ignoring the best years of your life and by not planning those years, you are denying yourself many forms of retirement happiness. People these days can easily look forward to twenty or thirty years ahead of them when they reach retirement age.
I don’t see much point in looking back to those days to compare lifestyles and life expectations. We are where we are today. However, I wonder if by recognizing the massive shift in retirement thinking, that we might pause for a moment and predict what changes we face as we move forwards ourselves.
Can we learn lessons from demographic shifts?
I think we can.
I believe that the entire spectrum of retirement planning must be addressed.
Without many exceptions, every day (for Olderhood purposes), I read retirement planning brochures or view presentations from retirement experts that focus almost exclusively on retirement FINANCIAL planning. They lead you to believe that if you have the money sorted out then your retirement lifestyle will be peachy.
There are SO many other aspects of retirement life that must be considered. Why can’t these experts get to grips with them and respond to them? Are they lazy? Are they only taught to think about money? Do they want to help the retired population …. or just make a buck from us?
If this is the Information Age, why do we as the retired population, suffer from a distinct lack of quality information?
Maybe there ARE lessons to be learned from the changes over these past decades after all. Maybe the retirement phenomena could benefit from refection and adjustment.
After all, those retirement experts today – those in their 30s or 40s, – will, themselves, live to be 80 or 90, or God forbid one hundred. I sure hope they know what they will be doing as they get older. Probably counting their money, I guess.
Olderhood firmly believes that the retirement phase of life for everyone can be enjoyable and rewarding – but it needs thinking, planning and enactment of a wide variety of lifestyles changes and ideas.
My mum was right. She fervently believed in open, reasonable, objective and limitless discussion. Maybe we can all learn from her.
By Bill Storie