When John F. Kennedy Jr. died along with his wife and sister-in-law in a tragic plane crash a few years ago, his uncle, Sen. Ted Kennedy, said in his eulogy that John had been given every gift life has to offer – except for the gift of time. Being able to live a long life, especially when it is a good life, is considered by most of us to be a blessing. Reaching old age is part of what we hope for – for ourselves as well as for our loved ones.
Modern medicine and higher standards of living have enabled us to nearly double our average life expectancy over the course of only a century. Now, reaching old age is the norm rather than the exception.
This means our traditional views of retirement may no longer be applicable when people live for another 30 or 40 years after they leave the work force.
We already know that for most of us the old life plans – education, career, retirement – no longer hold. In addition to formal schooling, life-long learning is required for most workers just to remain employable. Instead of staying in one career, many of us typically change jobs more than once. In the past, people retired not because they reached a certain age, but rather because they were too old to keep working. By contrast, retirement age today at 65 forces a great number of employees out of the work force when they are practically still in their prime.
There’s a lot of talk about “reinventing” retirement and there’s no shortage of professional advice on how to do it.
A critical component of this “reinvention” consists of the development of a different mindset. Retirement can no longer be seen as a time of rest after years of work. Rather, we should see it as another stage of life where we may be less career-minded, but may be more driven by our personal interests.
It is also important to remember that retirement does not just happen to us at the moment when we reach that certain age. To get ready for retirement requires a lifetime of preparation – not just financially. Many “successful retirees” will tell you that they kept doing more or less the same things they’ve always been doing. If they were physically active and maintained a healthy lifestyle over the years, they usually were not plagued by the aches and pains of old age. If they were intellectually curious throughout their lives, they typically remained mentally fit in later years as well. No doubt, the deposits we make early in life have a way of paying off when we need them the most.
~Timi Gustafson is the author of “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun.” Her book is available in bookstores and online at www.thehealthydiner.com or at Amazon.com – To receive her free monthly newsletter by e-mail, you may send a request to .