Making A Fresh Start by Robin Trimingham
“re·tire: mid16th century (in the sense ‘withdraw (to a place of safety or seclusion)’): from French retirer, from re- ‘back’ + tirer ‘draw.” Dictionary.com
Casting about for a suitable subject to write about today, I suddenly began wondering about the origins of the word “retirement”. As you can see above, we are all misusing using a term derived over four hundred and fifty years ago, to define the last third of our lives. Furthermore, many references seem to indicate that the term originally implied a military retreat from an advancing enemy.
Essentially this means that if you tell someone you are “retired” you are literally telling them that you have retreated from the workforce to the safety of your house, to live a life of seclusion. That’s about the same as referring to an orange as a peach on the basis that they are both fruit with pulp of a similar color.
Am I the only one who finds this a little absurd?
Why are we all clinging to an outdated word that describes neither what we are doing when we decide to cease going to work every day, nor the degree of personal freedom and level of socialization that is available to us in the age of internet?
Why are we only referencing the negative aspect of the fact that we no longer go to work five days a week to overshadow what can and should be the most free and vibrant phase of our lives?
Why is there no accurate and commonly accepted word to refer to this distinct third phase of life that now exists?
It really makes no sense when you consider just how many words there are to refer to the developmental stages of younger people: infant, toddler, child, teenager, young adult, adult. Sure, there are expressions like golden ager and senior citizen, but these terms also imply passivity, withdrawal, decline and decay. They might even be appropriate at the extreme end of one’s life, but is today’s typical sixty-five-year-old decayed?
Just have a look at the daily birthday greetings to members of the Olderhood International Club to see how young and vital everyone is, or check out this lady dancing at the grocery store (make sure you turn on the sound). She certainly hasn’t retreated to a place of seclusion:
We are not old, we are just older.
We may not be wise, but we are wiser.
We are not tired of life, we are just relieved to finally be able to spend the day doing what we want.
We will not be defined by an inaccurate and outdated word when we are finally just starting to live.
By Robin Trimingham