I have been working in an office for over 30 years and now my retirement is drawing near. I am in some sort of confusion as to what I should do in the next phase of my life.
It has hit me that I will have less money than I am used to (I will be earning some pension just enough for survival) though my bigger problem is whether I will not lose my head doing so little as I am used to decades of being busy.
About 25 years ago, I met a man in the CBD who was holding a newspaper, was in a suit and tie and after a few words with him, it was clear he was on his way to nowhere.
At 11 in the morning, he wanted us to have a coffee and a chat, and when this was not possible, he offered to walk me to my office.
With a measure of youthful irritation, I agreed, and when we got to my office, he laughed loudly and offered to be my patient.
This, I told him would not be possible because of our other relationships, and so referred him to a colleague. He is now an old man but he continues to thank me for the advice.
His story is very similar to that of many people who wake up one day and find themselves with nothing to do because retirement was not a matter he or his family had given any thought to.
His daily visits to the city centre, the suit, tie and newspaper were all intended to give the impression that he went to work daily.
Nobody in his family (wife and children) knew that he had retired. He had kept to his lifelong routine of leaving home at 6am and coming home at 6.30pm, to have tea, finish reading the newspaper, watch the 7 and 9pm news and retire at 9.30pm.
He was (and still is) a most obsessional man; a man of order who kept time and routine. Retirement had come to disrupt his life and he was ill prepared for it.
As he was to tell me later, he had come to understand that in his life, retirement had come to him with shame, loss of self esteem and worth, and he felt unable to face his family, now that he had “nothing to do” and felt he was worth nothing.
He could no longer be introduced by anybody as the occupant of such and such an office. All the introductions would be that of the former this or that.
A number of things were discussed between him and his therapist and now, in old age he considers himself as an expert in the subject of retirement.
It is, for example, clear to him that the first day at work for a young person must also be the first day of preparing for retirement.
Like death and taxes, retirement is only a matter of time. In a recent conversation, he reminds us that he retired at the age of 60, while the queen’s husband has just retired at the age of 96.
For both of them, retirement means a change of lifestyle for which one must prepare, and respond in a manner that is appropriate to his age and circumstances.
In his case, and with the help of his therapist, he set himself up in a second career that has proved most fulfilling. He had a talent for music and art.
Starting off with his grandchildren, he set himself up as a grandfather who could teach music and art. This had double benefits for him. In addition to a modest income, he had grandchildren around him all the time and therefore did not have a boring moment in his life. He no longer had the need to walk aimlessly in the city.
Like you, however, new challenges are visiting him by way of poor health and rising medical bills.
His pension is now seriously eroded by inflation and his classmates are mostly dead and others seriously ill and unable to offer friendship and companionship. His children are all busy with their families and jobs.
The family is now discussing old peoples’ homes as the most appropriate placement for him!
As you can see, retirement is real and all must be ready for it when it comes. In the past, retirement meant going back to one’s rural home.
For an increasing number, retirement means more golf and time spent in members clubs. For many others, old peoples’ homes are the only option left.