We are in the midst of yet another transition in the way we live our lives, caused by the simple but welcome fact that we are living longer than our ancestors.

A long life could be one of the greatest gifts that we have, enhanced by medical science, enabling us to be healthier for longer.

Life Expectancy

Over the last 200 years, life expectancy has steadily increased by around 2 years every decade.

This will begin to slow down because on that trajectory we would eventually be living forever!

However, the results of this are kicking in now, which means we need to redesign our lives to cope with and enjoy the promise of a longer life.

For some, this could mean we spend the same number of years that we spent in the workplace in retirement.

Retirement is no longer a few years tagged onto the end of our working lives, like that of our grandparents; it is a substantial period of time. But what will we do with this gift?

Our Grandparents

If we think back to our grandparents’ lives, they were quite straightforward.

Their expectations were a short childhood concluded by starting work at the age of fourteen, working for many years then retiring at 65 for men, and 60 for women, then, for most, a short retirement before dying.

Changing Patterns

The first change to this pattern came after the Second World War when a new stage of life began to creep in, that of being a Teenager.

Education went on for longer and going to work and the expectation of becoming an adult was delayed by a few years.

More recently another new stage of life has crept in, which has been dubbed the Explorer Stage.

This is happening in the 21-35 age group, who are delaying settling into a job and a relationship. They are doing what the label says, spending time exploring their options after leaving education.

Trying out different career paths, maybe going back into some form of education to upgrade or change their skills. They are delaying relationships or if they are in one often leaving having children until later.

A Longer Retirement

The change that affects the older age group is the longer retirement period that the promise of living longer gives us.

If we retire at the traditional age of 65 and live until we are 95 we will have 30 years of retirement. If we had settled into our career at the age of 35 we would have worked for 30 years.

Therefore our length of retirement would be the same as the length of being in what is called the Producer Stage of our lives.

It is very clear that this last stage of life will have to be planned for, both financially so this long retirement can be afforded and mentally so that it is enjoyable.

Changing Attitudes

Attitudes to retirement are changing. This has in part been influenced by the scrapping of the compulsory retirement age making us free to retire when we want to.

Retirement used to be a finite goal, with some people saying, ‘I can’t wait to retire’, whilst others feeling anxious about it.

Retirement was and still in many cases, is seen as an event, often marked with a presentation, a celebration on the last day of work, usually a Friday and then the individual wakes up the following Monday morning with the new identity of being retired, stripped from their former life; the identity of being a retired person becoming theirs until they sadly died.

Being Retired

Moving into retirement was often seen as moving into one big holiday and something to be enjoyed and to be grateful for.

Although it does remove the burden of turning up for work every day it places another burden of filling the days with meaningful activities and wondering what to do with our time.

Hobbies and interests were the order of the day. But the feeling of ‘being on holiday’ just cannot go on forever!

In some ways it could feel like:

What if we are someone who has always hated gardening, having the label of being retired will not change our dislike of it.

Even though society is telling us we should, (or whatever other hobby we feel we should take up when we retire).

What is required is a change in attitude about retirement being an ending, to it being a beginning. It also needs a change of label.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word retirement as ‘the action or fact of leaving one’s job to cease to work.’

But what could this stage of life be called?

It could have similarities to the newly evolved stage of Explorer because retirement is the time we can explore what we really want to do with the time we have been gifted, free from having to be in paid work.

The possibilities are endless, there are so many things we could get involved in:

1 - Unretiree

We could become an Unretiree, going back into some form of paid work with an understanding employer, something that is maybe less taxing, or requires fewer hours.

2 - Legacy Career

We could develop a Legacy Career, something we feel passionate about, something that will make a difference, large or small to the world.

We could take a job in that area, either retraining or using our current skill and experience.

3 - Encore Career

We could develop an Encore Career doing something that we have always been interested in but have not done because we had fallen into the job from which we have retired, never having had a chance to change direction.

This mainly happens because when we are in the Producer stage of life when we are busy supporting a family and paying the necessary bills that this creates.

4 - Olderpreneur

We could become an Olderpreneur and start a small business, something that interests and excites us.

5 - Volunteering

We could become a volunteer for a cause that we want to further. We could do some of these at the same time.

We could try things out and move on to try something else that has caught our interest and imagination.

Retirement Renamed

Perhaps we could call this stage of our lives the Portfolio Stage, as the Explorer label is already being used.

We can create a portfolio of all the things that interest us, excite us, and give us opportunities to be involved and active, because as we all know people who are curious and involved in the world live longer, healthier and more fulfilled lives.

Thinking About Your Retirement

Perhaps you could finish this sentence...In my ‘retirement’ period I would like to have a portfolio of interests and activities that looks like ……………………………….

Then reflect on what you have just thought and check that it contains things that make you happy and it aligns to the values that are important to you.

‘Retirement’ can be ‘the time of your life’ and with some thought and planning, it will be.

Author: Sandy Leong

Browse more Mirthy articles by clicking here.