Thursday Aug 13 2009
Increasingly I find myself thinking about the word retirement and whether it has the appeal that it once had for the mature worker. I remember, as if it were yesterday, my father talking about how he was looking forward to retirement. After working long hours and raising a family, there just did not seem much time for anything else. Through much of his mid-life, my dad's job (conductor for the railroad) had him working away from home and on the road during the week. Weekends were mostly reserved for rest before returning to the job the following Monday. Often he would share how he looked forward to being able to spend time doing the things he really wanted to do. I just assumed that meant golfing and fishing simply because those are about the only leisure activities that I remember my dad enjoying.
Later in his career, he traveled less far a field and so his hours were more regular and he spent more evenings at home. He then got involved in the community and spent his evenings and weekends coaching hockey teams and directing community sports programs. When he ultimately did retire, he spent plenty of time golfing and, yes, there was some fishing too. By his late sixties, he had a heart attack and that slowed him down significantly. He recovered well and returned to his almost daily game of golf. In his early seventies, he had a stroke and at the age of 74 he passed away.
His situation was similar to many of his friends. When they retired, they withdrew from their positions of work, and moved to the ‘back stage’ of life so to speak. Days were spent enjoying family, visiting with friends, playing their favorite sports, and traveling. There was much more time for watching their favorite programs on television and for afternoon naps. Increasingly, less time was spent playing the game of life ‘on the field’ and more time was spent ‘in the stands’ watching others in action.
I am not entirely sure where my father's views on retirement came from. Perhaps from his father or his grandfather. Likely though, much of my Dad's ideas for retirement were a result (directly or indirectly) of what was presented on the ever popular medium of his day, television. The popular shows of the time were filled with stories where the main characters talked of their longing for the day when they could put their feet up and finally relax. Numerous TV commercials featured ads for retirement communities, seniors travel packages, and all sorts of health services and products for seniors. Whatever the influence, my father and his friends eagerly anticipated retirement and the associated messages of rest and relaxation.
Fast forward now to today, and I cannot recall the last time I saw a 'Freedom 55' message on television. Perhaps due to the current state of the world economies, the idea of early retirement for many has been put on hold. And for many 'Boomers', I have the sense that the word 'retirement' is loosing its appeal. As a Boomer myself, I just don't see myself 'withdrawing' from action and sitting on the sidelines for the next 20 to 30 years. In discussion with my friends, they don't see themselves taking a back seat to life either. If anything, my friends and I no longer think of retirement…instead we are anticipating ‘changing games’, so to speak.
For me, the game I had been playing in the Information Technology industry yielded many years of satisfaction, career advancement, and personal growth and development. I got married during this game and we had a son and made several large purchases during the game (cars, homes, vacations, etc.). I advanced in my technical career into positions of management and then joined several executive teams in later stages of the game. At the age of 56, I began to consider the idea of playing a new game, one that would allow me to continue to make significant contributions.
A year has passed since the end of my first game, and now I
have invented an entirely new game. In my previous technology career, any new
variation to a technical product usually has a new version number assigned to
it. I rather like that idea. So I am inventing my new game in similar fashion
and naming it 'Life 2.0'. Rather than retire or withdraw from action on the
field, I choose to invent a new game. In fact, it may be a series of new games
with variations Life 2.1, Life 2.2, and then perhaps an entirely new game as
One of my new games involves the Eldering Institute, where I have the opportunity to work alongside some very gifted people to help contribute to a new experience of growing older. In our work, we have developed an Eldering Manifesto that wonderfully expresses a vision for growing older and a vision of living life as a possibility. If you are looking forward to playing a new game, then I invite you to read and sign the manifesto as an expression of your commitment to remaining in action on the field of life!
© 2009 Kevin Brown. All rights reserved.