“On Retiring the Concept of Retirement.” Mickey Glantz. written in Tokyo, in Starbucks while on travel (May 18, 2010)

Written by M. Glantz. Posted in All Fragilecologies, Human Condition

Published on May 28, 2010 with 3 Comments

The term retirement, despite its definition is apparently reserved for the aged not the young because the young are, expected to go on to another job. But then what is the definition of work or a job? Is tennis a job? Is writing a job? Is travel? Is writing a memoir for example, a job? Is reading all these books you bought but never had a chance to read a job? I think so.retirement_gifts-image-joy-of-not-working

I’m 70 now and I am thinking a lot about what it means to retire. In the old days — the 1960s when I first entered the workforce — retirement was a goal: get to 65 and stop working at whatever you had been doing for the past several decades. The idea then was to retire, sleep late, and sit on a porch somewhere watching sunrise and sunset, day after day after day. Wait a minute: Already, this is starting to sound boring.

Turning 65 meant that you had to close down your social network at the place of employment. Yet, to many, co-workers had become a surrogate family, and the workplace had become a place to go, to hang out, to share stories, to chat. Your workspace was much more than a few square yards of floor space, a desk, a phone, a fax, a bubbler; the workplace was a social happening, for good or bad. Most likely many workers are in the presence of co-workers over time spans longer than with their spouse and kids.

Societies and governments compartmentalize our lives. The education system is the best example: pre-school, kindergarten, elementary, middle, high school, college and then maybe graduate school and finally the workplace (it is age-based). Society, however, has a new concept that parallels, while at the same time challenges the traditional age-based, cohort-based, boxed-in educational framework: K to grey (Kindergarten to the elderly). Education is now recognized worldwide as a life long experience for those who wish to see it that way. However, society has not yet come up with an equivalent parallel, time-independent concept for one’s worklife.

Whatever their specific reason, people today continue to be active well after the previously established expected retirement age of 65. The word “retirement” has become at best a poor descriptor of what now happens.

First of all most people have more than one job in their lifetime and many have more than one job at the same time (not necessarily by choice!). But we don’t say s/he “retired” at 30 (to start another career). We say, instead, they took another job, quit, dropped out, moved on, etc. “Retirement”, the concept seems to be reserved for one’s post-worklife life. But in today’s financial or social environment the end of work life has become synonymous with the end of life.

Retirement as a concept has lost its original meaning. People are busy all their lives, working at something, even if that “work” is in the form of play.
retirement_is_a_fulltime_job

It is quite clear to me that the concept of “retirement” needs to be retired, much as sports organizations retire the numbers that star players have worn on their shirts for baseball or football. We do not retire any more. We just change from one activity to another, just like the young people as they do when they go from one job to the next.

Like I said at the outset, I’m 70 now and just beginning.


3 Comments

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  1. Retirement is defined as the time of one’s life when you receive a “salary” (pension) without the need to justify what you spend your time on.

  2. albert, you are correct. but it is a poor definition. if i receive pension as a result of working all my life, is that not really a salary but without having to go to an office and do work that an organization demands.

  3. Mickey, I was happy to read your blog on retirement because your recount and perceptions on retirement reflect a lifetime permeated with enjoyment for your work and for what you do… this in itself is priceless! It is also a reflections of a deeper understanding of life, a sense of community and familiarity with the people you work… at many levels I feel this is something attainable and within reach for any individual, but it requires maturity, and the ability of “making the perfect job, even in an imperfect place” … it is our inability to attain this that makes life seem like an ever “inclining treadmill” that drives people to count the months and the years towards their “retirement” and perhaps negotiate an earlier retirement.

    I agree that the concept of retirement is no longer accurate, for even as we stepped down from the workforce, we manage to keep ever so busy as we transition from one phase of our lives to the next.
    Last January in Belize, I met a rotating station manager (a volunteer position) at the field station I was working off of. He was a young person recently retired at the age of 52. I was surprised to find an individual who had graduated and worked from the age of 20-21, probably shifting job placement a couple of times only, and retiring upon completing 30 years of hard work. He seemed content to be out, engaging in something new and keeping busy. I was taken aback because I found him to be too young to be retired… the more I dwelt on it I learned something new about myself: I found I didn’t have a concrete concept or vision towards retirement in that applied to me in my life, and I hadn’t even thought about it.

    My only thoughts on retirement is with what regards to the necessary shift in the work force: some individuals give other individuals the opportunity to come into and industry and partake of the limited “placements” so as to build their skills and bring on new energy and ideas to that industry. If our current industries were ever expanding, the need to retire people would not exist.

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    The other concept you bring up with regards to “time-independent concept for one’s worklife” is completely fascinating. In my mind, I interpret this as being our ability to integrate talents, degrees of experiences in a work-setting where we don’t compartmentalize individuals within a category “high school level” “masters level” “college level”, etc., but rather we draw from the individual and its talents regardless of their age and preparation. As an example, I am currently working in a camp where class assignment is done by campers’ choice (first, second and third). When the list for the classes are finalized, you can have an 8 years old mixed in with 13-15 year olds, or any age range of age between 8-15 together in a class. As a result, you have different skill and creative levels participating within a class together. Yesterday for one of the ropes classes, a counselor commended a 9 year old girl for having broken a record climbing the rock wall. In this setting older kids benefited by observing how a younger individual would approach the challenge at hand.

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