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HORIZON BLOG

When I Retire, Will Society Still Care About Me?

 

Question

I’m approaching my mid-60s and thinking about retirement. My concern is that the world will no longer see me as relevant once I retire. I already notice that people treat me differently as I get older.  It’s as though my opinion no longer matters. I can only imagine what it will be like in the future.

How does one go into retirement without feeling a tremendous loss over what once was? My health is great, and my mind is strong. I just feel dismissed by my children and other younger folks. It seems like I’m invisible to society. 

Is there anything that I can do to shake this feeling?

 

Answer

You bring up a topic that almost everyone experiences, if they are lucky enough to live a long life. It’s called ageism, and yes, it is real. There is some well-documented research on bias toward older adults. Actually, it is experienced by younger adults quite frequently as well. 

Think back on when you started your career. Think about the comments you received from superiors, clients, and customers. At times, you likely wanted to just grow older so the bias would stop. I certainly did at times, as a young nurse. Even though I was green, I knew what I was doing. Still, patients did not trust me. 

We all take some of our experiences with a certain population/group and stereotype or generalize them to the rest of the group. It’s hard not to do it. One has to check oneself with each situation not to treat everyone within a group the same. It takes strength and self-awareness to treat everyone with respect and to listen to them without being dismissive.

Each individual has the right to be heard. I also feel that with that comes respect for the audience, whether children, wait staff, health care providers, or clerks, to name a few. Age should give us wisdom and decorum--my sincere dream for humanity.

As you approach retirement, adaptation to aging will require some adjustments. You will experience some ageism. Not everyone will be as mature as you. I suggest you do your best to stand tall and respectfully hold your ground. 

My recommendations to combat ageism for older adults are:

  • When family gathers, be part the conversation. Just because your children grew to adulthood does not mean that you are no longer an adult.
  • Try new things. Your children do not need to be the first ones to try new technologies.  Go ahead and try a new app or install some electronic gadget that makes your life easier. It’s nonsense to say that you can’t figure it out yourself. You can learn almost anything on YouTube these days.
  • Stay current with the news. If you aren’t paying attention to what’s going on in the world, you’ll be left out of many interesting conversations. Read the paper, or get your news online.
  • Be physically active. I know it’s hard. Exercise is not just for young people, and it’s not narcissistic. Your mind needs your body to stay in shape. 
  • Work. If you’re able, find some type of work to do. It can be volunteer work or a job. Anything will do. Staying connected and challenging yourself is essential. Being around people old and young will keep you engaged. Yes, you must do this as long as you live.  Doing nothing but binge watching television is not the way to be seen as valid. 
  • Dress for success. I know it sounds a tad bit crazy since you’re retiring. I’m talking about combating ageism. If you dress like someone who doesn’t care about themselves, you’ll be treated accordingly. Shower, keep your hair groomed, polish your shoes, and look your best every day.  

There is truth to ageism, but breaking stereotypes is possible. It’ll take effort on your part, but it’s possible to shake the feeling that you’re becoming irrelevant by staying relevant. 

I wish you a wonderful “semi-retirement” and many productive years.

 

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