Not so long ago things appeared to be more ‘simple’ – you finished school, you went to work, when you got to 65, you retired. For most of us this is no longer true.
Advancements in technology and medical care, as well as an unstable financial environment, have upset the balance. We are living longer and healthier lives, and we’re either wanting to or needing to work beyond the traditional retirement age.
The Baby-Boomer generation – people born between 1946 and 1964 - has reached retirement age, and discovered that retirement isn’t what it used to be. They simply don’t want a life of knitting and pottering around. They are still at peak energy, they are an invaluable knowledge base for their business, and they are terrified at the thought of empty days ahead.
This is where Lynda Smith of the Refirement Network comes in. She describes herself as a “retirement transition coach”, and describes what she does as “helping to communicate and educate the South African Baby Boomer about the challenges and opportunities on the horizon as they head towards the life stage that used to be called retirement”.
“The mindset of the baby boomer generation is one of ‘can do’,” she says, meaning Boomers have higher expectations, but also more resources available to make things happen. Smith adds that the “new thinking” is that it feels “strange” to work your whole life and then just stop.
The solution, she says, is to change the way we think about work, and about retirement. The years leading up to what used to be retirement age, she says, should be seen as a “transition phase where you design a change of pace and portfolio of possible activities that will include work in the next phase of your life.”
However, while many people are driven by positive enthusiasms for the work world, others are held to the workplace by necessity: the old-fashioned company retirement is a thing of the past, and many Boomers simply aren’t rich enough to retire:
Not enough savings: many of us have not saved enough or consistently and need to continue to work
Continued responsibilities for others: a lot of people at or nearing retirement age have aged parents who need to be cared for. This takes time, money and exacts an emotional toll.
Changed circumstances: Smith points out that the boomers are the most divorced generation to reach this life stage, which brings with it a whole lot of other complications, such as being a 50+ single who needs to get by on less money.
Also, many people who retire after a lifetime of work suddenly feel that they’re not contributing to society any more, and fear that they offer no value to their family now they’re not earning money from a career. The need to feel like they still have a role is something that drives people to stay in the world of work.
On the upside, the Boomers have certain advantages. They are generally tech-savvy - they have had to face numerous challenges in the workplace before retirement, such as adapting to the changes that technology brought to the workplace dynamic.
The 'Sandwich Generation'
One of the most challenging issues facing boomers is the fact that many, out of logistical or reasons of necessity, are looking after their own children at the same time as they are looking after their elderly parents. This is not only emotionally draining, but Smith says it’s often a real financial burden, especially if parents become very frail or need specialised care.
Smith calls these oldest group the Silent Generation. “Change is very difficult for this generation. It is wise to have discussed what will happen before the high care is needed, and to encourage them to move into a place that offers frail and mid care. Once the care is needed, it is often difficult to find a place that can take them. It is also very expensive, and this is the other challenge for the children,” says Smith.
So what advice is there for the hard-working Boomer who has retired and finds life a little empty without the daily routine?
Smith says Boomers need to discover who they are, and strongly advises that they join community groups and get involved in areas of interest which will sort out feelings of isolation and depression.“We all have some kind of talent and skills that can be of use to others, and this also takes the focus off ourselves.
"Join a church group, or offer your services at a local school or hospice; learn new skills and connect through technology to social media to stay in
Reference: Lynda Smith of the Refirement Network.
(Amy Froneman, Health24, October 2010)
(Picture: happy senior couple at home from Shutterstock)