Bold Age – Live to work or work to live?

Remember last week we started to redefine retirement, favouring:

Bold Age: “To have the courage, desire and resources to continue to grow, in your own way, whatever number is on your birthday card”

Given this more empowering description of Bold Age, the question I explore with clients is, ‘what role could work play in your life in this new stage?’

The Bournemouth Echo featured an article on 91-year old engineer Gordon Forsey last month, who still works in his workshop alongside his 66-year old son. You’d hear many people say, ‘Work? At 91?! If I’d have worked for that long, I’d want to hang up my boots!’

It may seem a bit bizarre to begin a series of articles on retirement with a piece about work, given the traditional notion that we should be stopping work at this time, but if you ask yourself ‘does retirement mean stopping work?’ the answer is both yes and no.

As you know, work has always been part of our culture, a work ethic is something we teach from a young age, and this work ethic tells us that working is ‘good’ and that not working isn’t. So when doing less or no work is a real possibility it feels uncomfortable at best and horrifying or debilitating at worst; evoking feelings of guilt, worthlessness and isolation.

The trick is to be clear and specific on what work gives you that you value and then find ways of fulfilling these things in Bold Age. Let’s look at what Gordon Forsey gets from his work: –

In the article, Gordon says, “To me every day is challenging, and it gives you satisfaction if you can help someone out who is in trouble and get them back on the road or working again.” This quote wonderfully highlights some of the key benefits of work, that we still crave even if we are not working full-time:

  • Sense of utility – a sense of purpose. Knowing that we are useful and contributing to others’ needs by offering tasks or services that are required in society gives our life implicit meaning. And getting paid for these things makes it even better!

          It gives us certainty.

  • Status – having a definite place in our community. This is not about having a superior status, more about knowing we have a role in society.

          It gives us significance.

  • Socialisation – constant contact with people. We interact, connect with and relate to people on multiple levels developing relationships and forming friendships to make things happen.

         It gives us a sense of belonging.

The point is, whilst work may seem like a royal pain in the behind during our busy years, we actually need the things that it gives us. As humans, we have always needed certainty, significance and a sense of belonging to survive. We need work to live, fully.

Gordon is not on his own; in Bold Age many people choose to work part-time in the field they have expertise in or begin voluntary work or even start a business based on a hobby, interest or talent.

What is your life’s work, your cause that will create certainty and significance for you in Bold Age? And who do you need to share this with to feel that sense of belonging?

Contact me with any views or questions, or to discuss how you plan for your Bold Age.