For many people, “retirement” is seen as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow; it is a reward for a lifetime of hard work and an opportunity to relax and take it easy. Well, that’s the idea at least!
In reality, the concept of retirement, in a traditional sense, is both unrealistic and unhealthy. Now, before you accuse me of being out of touch with reality, let me explain. Then, I’ll tell you how this all relates to two words that Judi Dench refuses to let into her house.
Our ideas about retirement have been shaped over many decades by TV shows, magazines, movies, conversations with our friends and our own fantasies. Having worked most of our lives, we dream of “taking it easy” and “enjoying the fruits of our labor.”
The first problem, of course, is that the great majority of us don’t reach retirement age with anything close to the amount of money that it would take to live comfortably for 20-30 years.
In addition, regardless of whether we have saved enough for retirement, most of us find ourselves facing a crisis in our 60s. With the social, economic and family ties that gave our lives meaning in the past shifting, we find ourselves struggling to find lasting happiness.
The bottom line here is that, while I understand that there are some people out there who could be happy playing golf all day, the majority of us need to be deeply involved in something that gives our lives meaning – a company, volunteer organization or religious group. We need to be needed and socially engaged, not removed from society.
So, all this brings me back to the two words that Judi Dench refuses to allow into her home.
These words are “retirement” and “old.”
As she said in a recent interview with The Telegraph, “‘Retirement’ is the rudest word in her dictionary… and ‘old’ is another one. I don’t allow these in my house.”
Looking at Judi Dench’s recent work, it’s clear that she looks at life after 60 as an opportunity to be herself and explore her passions, not as a time to escape from society.
To be 100% clear, I’m not saying that rethinking retirement means that you need to work forever. It certainly doesn’t mean that you need to keep working in a traditional job, unless, like many of us, you simply need the money.
I’m simply saying that, with 20-30 years, or more, left on this planet, we should take a second to question our assumptions about life after 60.
Instead of stepping back from society, let’s get involved in the causes that matter to us.
Instead of accepting invisibility, let’s make our voices heard.
Instead of relaxing in front of the TV, let’s get out into nature.
Instead of accepting the physical limitations that come with age, let’s overcome them.
Instead of retiring, in a traditional sense, let’s reengage with the world – on our own terms.
This is our time! We have 6 decades of experience behind us and the best years of our lives in front of us. Like Judi Dench, let’s banish the words “retirement” and “old” from our houses and focus on living active, purposeful and engaged lives after 60.
Have your perceptions of the “perfect retirement” changed at all as you have gotten a little older? Do you see retirement as a chance to relax? Or, is it an opportunity to learn, grow, produce and give back? Or, maybe it’s a bit of both? Please join the conversation.