Don’t Choose to Be Obsolete

Barbara Morris

Barbara Morris

Everybody deserves their retirement, especially those who get to age 65 and are mentally and physically worn out, but most people at retirement age have a lot of life left in them. Maybe they don’t want to work 40 hours every week, but they are too young and vital to vegetate.

The decision to stop being productive, invoking the mantra “I deserve to retire because I’ve worked all my life”, is short sighted and certainly not accurate because life is not yet over. You have yet to explore and exploit your potential that could benefit yourself and others. Traditional retirement for healthy individuals ignores the reality that we are made for productive work – like it or not. In other words, we need a purpose.

According to Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones Solution, “If you can articulate your sense of purpose, it’s worth about eight extra years of your life expectancy.”

Typically, I hear retirees say, “I stay busy”. Activities such as gardening, taking classes, and playing cards are fun, but they are not productive. I define “productive” as something you do, paid or volunteer,  that not only has value for you but for others.

Our tradition of retirement at age 65 is not ordained by God; it’s a foolish but well-meaning political creation of the 1930s when people didn’t live much longer than age sixty-five. A lot has changed since then.

The life span has increased by 30 years, yet people still retire at age 65 or sooner. That means retirees who are not productive may be in decline for a longer period of time. Instead of “living” they will be “existing.” Instead of being self-sufficient, they may be a burden.

Boomers get it, I think. They tell me they have no intention of living the same kind of retired lifestyle as their parents and grandparents. But will they accomplish their goal, or will the lure of traditional retirement entice them to become part of the traditional retired lifestyle?

Boomers say they identify more closely with younger people than with older people. That perceived identity will quickly give way to traditional thinking and behavior unless there is a plan to avoid the traditional retired mindset and lifestyle.

It is not a secret that many people make no plans for how they want to live in retirement. Worse, many underestimate how much money they will need. That means instead of taking charge of their aging process and making choices that result in growth and productivity, they have chosen to just let life happen.

If you spend your pre retirement years in the wrong career all is not lost if you plan, at least by age 40-50 to take charge of your future. At a healthy age 65 it’s not too late to go back to school, start a new business or new career. Post retirement is the time to live your dream.

You should plan to stay productive because the prevailing economic situation may not resolve any time soon. True, life may throw a monkey wrench into your plan, but it’s far more exciting to have a dream that can come true than to reminiscence about what might have been as you pass the time in a retirement community with other “could have beens.”

Please don’t allow yourself to become obsolete because you plan to retire. You are not a light bulb that has been programmed to burn just for 100 hours. You are not an automobile that has been engineered to run just 100,000 miles and then be relegated to the scrap heap. Your potential is enormous.

Regardless of what you have worked at for so many years, there is something more inside you that has potential and value. Please don’t let it go untapped. Use it to give joy and purpose to your own life and to benefit others. The bonus payoff is that you will stay ageless as long as you live. Engaging in work you enjoy is the ultimate anti-aging secret. I guarantee it. There isn’t a wrinkle cream in the entire world that can come close to enjoyable work to help you stay and look young.



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