Few people actually want to grow old, while others see it is a natural phenomenon and nothing to be shied from. In truth it is an expected occurrence in the human life cycle that will be embraced or fought by many seeking to do what they can with the time they still have. The biological fact that people will in fact grow old is an inescapable part of being human, but the psychological impact it produces differs from one person to the next. Upon retirement many people are affected in a more psychological than physical manner.

As individuals grow, develop, and mature, they are given reason to expect that society will want them to perform one certain function or another, or multiple functions, in order to contribute. When a person is young those expectations range from a normalized, expected level of participation to a very involved role within society.  Often this will continue for many years as the individual eventually finds their niche within one community or another. As the years go by however their role might change, becoming more involved or, as they begin to age, becoming more distinguished.

The eventual outcome of anyone’s life and role within society however is almost always the same. Eventually the time will come when the individual is simply too old and/or infirm to perform their duties, and must pass the torch so to speak to the next generation. Many individuals seek to fight this type of development and maintain their relevancy within the system, but are forced to eventually realize that they can no longer perform the same functions with the same efficiency as they displayed in their younger years.  This is when the talk of retirement becomes very real.

Retirement is handled in many different ways. Some fight against it while some gradually

come to accept the stark reality that it is needed. As the body continues to age it is necessary to

acknowledge that one cannot perform the same functions as they did when younger. Eventually the body begins to break down and lose the ability to recover from stress and unforeseen trauma as it once did. No matter what career or job a person retires from, it is often their health that is the reason that retirement becomes necessary.

Aging for many people is a steadily downward decline, but it does not have to be. Successful aging is all about taking care of oneself physically, mentally, and emotionally (Pruchno, Wilson-Genderson, Rose, & Cartwright, 2010). Spiritual health is just as important, but is easier to achieve once the core biological needs are met. Eating right, getting enough rest, and learning when to simply sit back and relax are all important principles of aging successfully. These principles are different for each individual, but are essentially the same in that they promote continued health and contentment with life. Once that is established, the aging process can be navigated in a much calmer and more reasonable manner.

If there was one secret to be shared when it comes to successful aging, it would be a core principle that would be interpreted differently to everyone.  That principle would be to do what is right for oneself. This can be perceived in many different ways and can mean a great many things to different people, which is why it is one of the most fluid and interchangeable ideals concerning humanity. The ability to do right by oneself is a mark of maturity, wisdom, and a sign that one has learned how to accept the aging process.

A lot of people that contemplate retirement find it somewhat unnerving that eventually

their life will have little purpose other than to putter around and do the same things that many

retirees do. After a life spent making certain that they have job that can support their family and

their own needs, individuals tend to look at retirement as a wide open landscape filled with

options that they simply do not fully understand.  After so many years of being limited to what

they can and cannot do based upon time and money constraints, many people have no real idea of what to do with themselves, and will often sit and do nothing.  This unfortunately is the surest way to age quicker and with far less grace.

The best way to age with success is to stay active, find new interests, or pursue old ones. Retirement is not the end of the line, but instead the switching of gears so to speak, a chance to finally do all the things that one wishes they could have done when they were too busy. This is the time in life when one can take those trips they wanted, or spend more time with family, or simply kick back and relax whenever they want. The body will no doubt continue to react in much the same way as it did before retirement, but it can also learn to relax and enjoy a much calmer pace.

Emotionally this is a time to be more open to what life has to offer.  The scare of retirement is often one that can unnerve a great many people, as it means that they are no longer bound by anything and free to do everything. This kind of freedom can be extremely overwhelming, but the body and the mind can both acclimate to such a sensation with help. Those that have already experienced retirement are typically the best source to use for advice when just entering retirement, as they can give many ideas of how to acclimate.

The fear that retirement brings to many individuals often comes in the form of being

useless in a way.  For so long an individual works to remain relevant in society, and upon

retirement there is nothing left for them to do to contribute. Therefore the idea that they have

become useless causes a great amount of fear that is derived from the belief that they will be

ignored, cast out, or otherwise ostracized from their community. In many cultures the act of

retirement is handled in different ways that all seek to help the individual adjust to this transition.

There are a number of ways that individuals can be included within a society once they retire,

and more to the point they are able to benefit just as much as the organizations they join or the people they interact with.

In many cultures those of retirement age and older are afforded great respect. While some are considered far too old to be a part of a productive work force, their words and ideas are still listened to by those in charge.  While this is not always the case it is still prevalent enough to believe that their voices are still heard and listened to in matters of business and life in general. What must be remembered in any culture is that such individuals were the pioneers for that which is taken to be commonplace in the current day. If not for their hard work and sacrifice the world would be a much different place.

Retirement often seems to strip away the last vestiges of dignity and purpose that many people cling to for much of their lives. However it is not so much a detriment to retire, but a chance to live a life that is free of the stigma of dependency and more open to experiences that were unavailable to the individual in their youth.  The age of retirement is a time to engage in new activities and explore old interests in a manner that is more liberating and less demanding (Feldman, 2015)). At this point in an individual’s life it is more important to focus on the individual desires than it is to worry over the needs of others.  After a life spent taking care of others, retirement is a time when the individual can take care of their own interests.

The issue of what to do, where to go, and how to spend one’s time is a hurdle that many people feel upon growing older. They have spent so much of their lives doing for others that doing for themselves is a rather alien concept. However upon retirement it is wise to seek out fellow retirees that have undergone this transition or are still going through it. This can help the individual to better understand and acclimate to this new stage in life so that they might accept it in a more open manner.

References

Feldman, R.S. PhD. (2015). Discovering the Life Span (3rd Ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.

Pruchno, R.A. PhD, et al. (2010). Successful Aging: Early Influences and Contemporary

Characteristics. Gerontologist, 50(6), 821-833.

 

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