Retirement and Choice

By Kevin Brown | Bio

In my previous post, I mentioned two books that I was in the process of reading, Ken Dychtwald’s "With Purpose" and Don Tapscott’s "Grown Up Digital".  Ken’s book calls us to consider how we will spend our time and apply our life experience in the later stages of our life. Don’s book has us consider the impact the ‘Net Generation’ is having on the world at large. I have only begun to read "Grown up Digital" and already I am reading it from the perspective of aging. While considering the impact of the ‘Net Generation’, I am really listening for "What does this mean to the generation of baby boomers (my generation) that is about to retire and how will it directly or indirectly influence our generation’s impact on society going forward?"
Traveling regularly back and forth between Calgary and Edmonton (the two largest cities in Alberta, Canada) allows me to interact with the many friends I have made in both of the cities in which I have grown up, gone to school, worked, and contributed socially.  For many of my friends and I, our conversations are increasingly turning to the subject of retirement. For some, retirement is eagerly anticipated and just a few short years away. For others, it is on the mind, but seen as something that will occur five to ten years in the future. The question that I have been asking my friends when the discussion turns to retirement is, "Could we have a more powerful discussion about our future by focusing on possibility?"
One doesn’t have to spend much time researching aging to conclude that life expectancy continues to increase (in Canada 83 for women and 78 for men and in the United States 81 for women and 73 for men). There is every likelihood that, with the constant improvements in medicine and in health and wellness research and practices, we will continue to live longer lives with greater levels of health.  If, therefore, we can reasonably expect to live into our mid to late 80s with healthy bodies and minds, then how will we spend our time and contribute the best of ourselves back into society?
What if our focus were to shift from one of "Retirement" to one of "Choice"? Each calls us to consider very different possibilities for aging. Webster defines retirement as "withdrawal, as in withdrawal from one’s occupation or profession". Choice is defined as "the opportunity and power to choose or reject a possibility". Shifting our focus from one of "withdrawal" (in which the future is defined by our past and we see only diminishing opportunities) to one of "choosing” (in which the future offers endless possibilities for us to choose) creates an opening for action and contribution and engagement.

At the Eldering Institute, we speak of "Eldering" as a way of being in which we are creating purpose and mastery in later life. One of our program offerings is "Eldering: The alternative to retirement". This interactive one-day workshop is intended for individuals who are focused on choosing how they relate to their future. Eldering is a masterful way of relating to the rest of our lives—one that allows us to freely design a purpose that includes new possibilities for sharing the best of who we are and what we’ve learned. If you are interested in bringing this program to your community or group, email us at or complete our online form

© 2009 Kevin Brown. All rights reserved.