The New Retirement Attitude – Today’s 60 is Yesterday’s 40

If I say “retirement,” what are the first five words that come to your mind? If they are “leisure,” “relaxation,” “comfort,” “golf” and “old age,” you’re thinking about yesterday’s retirement. This is the 21st century, when the new 60 looks like the old 40. And when retiring means “growth,” “new opportunities,” “excitement,” “challenge,” and “self-discovery.”

Look on the bright side. When you retire, you have more time to pursue your passions. That’s what Harry did. He was an on-air personality in the Midwest for most of his working life. When he retired, he moved to Sedona, AZ, where he had sought refuge during the years when the hectic pace of his life left him exhausted.

For the first couple of years, he played tennis and read. But soon he got bored, so he turned to photography — an early love abandoned when he got his first big job. Before long his photos were published. Then he started a small greeting card company. He didn’t need the money, so he donated the proceeds to a local arts program for teenagers. Then he put the two together and his greeting-card company offered exciting intern programs for aspiring artists. Harry still plays tennis three times a week, but he isn’t bored any more.

Photography and tennis may not be your thing. But I’m certain there’s something out there that will get you engaged. The new retirement is about personal growth. It’s a chance to mend fences, heal old wounds, and really get to know you. Since you have more time, take up journaling. Indulge in the luxury of going deep — and understanding your life, your relationships, and your lifetime motivations. Keep a “Gratitude Book” and write down the things you’re thankful for — the large and the small.

Dr. George E. Vaillant, author of Aging Well, a book that chronicles three studies of 824 people followed from their teens into their 80s, found that a capacity for gratitude is a major factor in successful aging. Practicing an attitude of gratitude can be done any time of day, but try it just before you go to sleep each night. Review the day and notice all the things you’re thankful for from the rose bush that finally has a bloom to your third grandchild — a girl at last.

Grow your mind, too. Learn new things by taking classes at your local community college or travel with Elder Hostel to study the Impressionist painters in France. In the “old” retirement you’d hang out with the same friends — the threesome on the golf course or the regular Monday night bridge game with the couple you’ve known for 30 years. You’d design your life around the same activities day in and day out. Studies have actually proven that getting stuck in deadening routines can be dangerous to your health. Instead, meet new people. Do something novel you couldn’t imagine doing even a few years ago.

Marcia had lived a very diverse life. An actress and a trained chef, she had played off Broadway and been a pastry chef on a Caribbean yacht. Her life’s dream was to own a country inn, and she found the perfect place on the rugged Oregon coast when she was in her mid-fifties. But after 10 years of working 24×7 to meet the public’s demands, she was ready to retire.

She started a small catering business, but that was more of the same. She craved a whole new world. So she said “yes” enthusiastically when a friend suggested she work a few days in a day-care center. Being with the young children nurtures her creative side on a regular basis, and getting to know the parents has enriched her life and expanded her universe. She falls into bed exhausted at the end of her days with the kids, but she’s inspired and gratified, too.

Bottom line — Cast off society’s belief about aging and retirement. Retirement can be the adventure of a lifetime. It doesn’t have to be a permanent rest stop.

Ask yourself whether your negative beliefs about retirement are getting in the way of how you really want to live the “third half” of your life. What one belief about retirement will you change today?


Copyright (c) 2007 Lin Schreiber

Certified Retirement Coach Lin Schreiber, author of The Retirement Re-Tool Kit, helps baby boomers revolutionize and redefine their ideas about how they will live life in retirement. To claim your free Boomer Transition Kit and copy of 88 Tips for Planning A Healthy, Happy, Enriching Retirement Life, visit her site at