Center for Creativity and Work
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Reinventing Retirement

It seems like only yesterday that everyone looked forward to retirement as the “golden years,” a time of relaxing, playing golf, some travel and visiting grandkids.

There has been a shift now. The longevity revolution, where many people are living active lives 20-30 years and more beyond retirement age is part of the reason. Boredom in Paradise! Life without structure, community, and a deep soul nurturing sense of purpose is not satisfying for most of us. Added to this, the economic downturn has caused many who were considering retiring at 65 or earlier to realize that they have to work to make ends meet.

In my career coaching practice, I hear many clients in later midlife and beyond questioning their future. Those who are still working often feel stymied and frustrated in their work. The exciting challenges have been met and they long to express more of themselves. Those who have retired or are unemployed realize that endless days of freedom and time is often not enough. Their careers provided a framework for their lives. When this is ripped away, they feel unsettled and disconnected.

If midlife is a time of self-reflection, this time of later midlife and beyond is even more so. It is time to ask the big questions: Who am I really? What is the unlived part of me? What is my legacy to the world? How can I serve and be connected to a larger purpose. As Carl Jung once said: “ We cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning—for what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and what in morning was true will at evening become a lie.”
Jane Fonda, on a book tour for her recent book “Prime Time” spoke in Berkeley a few years ago about her life and observations at age 73. She left Ted Turner because with him life was great but “horizontal”. She had the need to go deeper and examine the earlier stages of her life to fully live what she calls her “third stage”. Fonda looks at the years beyond 60 not as a decline but as an “ascending staircase.” She didn’t mention God but spiritual as well as personal growth was strongly implied.

Marc Freedman in his most recent book “The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife” really nails it. He calls for a new map of life and names the years between middle age and being elderly the “encore stage”. We are beyond middle age and not yet old. We have energy, creativity, experience, time, and a desire to serve, to do something meaningful and to leave our legacy.

In this book and his previous one called “Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life” Freedman interviews scores of individuals leaving corporate and professional jobs and transitioning to work in the nonprofit, educational, and public service areas. This subject has long fascinated me and as I recently looked through my files I see that I have collected numerous ideas and articles related to it since 2003. Thank you, Marc, for naming it.

There has been some talk in the media recently of older people being a burden on society. This certainly doesn’t have to be so. The need to connect, to be part of a community making a difference in the world, to leave a meaningful legacy calls us and is part of our human journey. It is time for more of us to do the inner work and then find our own individual path and direction for this important next stage of our lives.
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