Who are we after we retire?

Evolving Lifestyles 55 possibilities
Retired Teachers Association of Manitoba

Lifestyles 55 is often about retirement for most of us and often pictured on TV as being a continuous vacation. The people involved in the ads are perfectly healthy, good looking, and carefree. Whereas this might be something to strive for, it may be an impossible expectation for most people. It could be like living in an “all Inclusive” resort: dressing for the people you would love to encounter every day, eating well prepared meals, being constantly entertained, all without any responsibility for providing any of this luxury living because your retirement income would always pay the bills. The reality instead is determining what constitutes a meaningful lifestyle for you.

In reflecting on my past life as a wife, mother and someone with a career, I realize that my life includes: living, (eating, sleeping and where I live to stay healthy), loving (children, friends, widowhood), learning (where does my passion lie and how does it fit into my income?), and is there any lasting reason for my living at all? (my legacy). What am I to expect of the rest of my life? What choices do I have, and do I have choices? My husband died very suddenly when I was 50. That certainly was not a choice of mine. How long will my life last? The life expectancy for many women is now into the nineties and now getting closer to that for men.

Many years ago, the then Governor General of Canada, Adrienne Clarkson, spoke at Creative Retirement Manitoba’s twentieth Annual General Meeting. In her comments about retirement and what the meaning of the words “creative retirement” had for her, she elaborated on life’s developmental stages in the following ways. As infants and children our parents define who we are, in adolescence our peers and the education system we attend add to that definition. In our young adulthood we often choose partners and our employers. They provide a meaningful definition to our identity. Who are we in retirement? Often, we just become “old” and lose the identity of a productive person in our society. But actually, we have the opportunity to become who it is we are meant to be in life. We can choose to become who we are: to ourselves, and to those who are now part of our daily lives. Our identity is our choice in greater part if the lifestyle we choose becomes our choice and we don’t fall into society’s stereotypical choice for us. We now get to choose to work with people rather than working for people. We now have an opportunity to choose to be with people and to share our values, skills and abilities with like-minded people.

We are coming close to the end of the lockdowns we have endured this last year and a half. It is an opportunity for each of us to reflect on what has forever changed in our lives. The negative experiences for all are obvious. The “faces in the window,” seen every night on CBC’s the National, will always be a reminder of the worst of what could have been. There are also surprising positives: I have survived living alone for long stretches and used creative eating experiments to spice up my life and a personal coach to provide meaningful exercise; both to keep myself healthy. I both learned what my passion in life really is and have learned how to take the stress of having enough money for the rest of my life away. I have been able to give and receive love (using “face time”) to a growing infant great granddaughter who was hospitalized and isolated because of a medical condition for over a year. In living through the different stages of retirement from age 55 or 65 on into the 90s and 100s the elements of a lifestyle still can be described by: living, loving, learning and leaving a legacy. What will your plan and following actions include for your future now that the pandemic is nearing an end and the future is ahead of us? Try sketching out a basic daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly plan.

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