In this essay I will highlight three resources I frequently reference in my Retirement Reimagined coaching practice and workshops. The first is a 13-minute TED talk about four phases of retirement. The second is another 13-minute TED talk summarizing a Harvard longitudinal study about the importance of relationships in healthy aging. The third resource is a book, 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans.
1) The Four Phases of Retirement
This TED talk by Dr. Riley Moynes begins with a description of the first phase of retirement, the vacation/liberation phase. This is roughly the first year or two after retiring, a time of freedom and liberation from work. Phase two is the disappointment phase, where one can feel loss and a bit lost. Moynes identifies five common losses experienced during this second stage: structure, identity, relationships, purpose, and power.
The third phase is defined as the experimentation, or trial and error period. This phase comes after the realization that something different must be done to break out of both the frustrations of phase two, and the lack of purpose in phase one. The fourth stage evolves from phase three and is about self-discovery and finding your purpose in retirement. This phase is about figuring out what we can do to help others, and engaging in causes bigger than ourselves. In this fourth phase, Moynes says we discover “How we can squeeze all the juice out of retirement.”
For some retirement begins in phase three. Those who do relate to phases one and two might like to amplify or extend the liberation and vacation phase, and to skip the disappointment phase. The limits and frustrations of the first two phases, however, motivate us to move beyond ourselves and into the experimentation and discovery phase. These last two phases take us to a more full and engaged life, beyond just serving our own needs.
To the fourth “purpose” phase of Moynes’ model, I would add two words: pleasure and engagement. Adding these two elements creates a more satisfying and complete fourth phase of retirement. I believe whole heartedly in pursuing purpose. I also encourage maintaining the pleasure elements of phase one (vacation and liberation.) In addition, our pursuit of purpose and satisfying projects should include the engagement of both our minds and our energy.
To learn more about combining all three of these elements of pleasure, engagement and purpose in retirement, click here to link to an essay I wrote about this topic.
2) What makes a good life?
Lessons from the longest study on happiness
The second TED talk I often share with clients, friends, and workshop attendees features Robert Waldinger, Executive Director of the Harvard Longitudinal Study. This study has covered over eighty years and still includes regular in depth assessments of the subjects, who are from both privileged and poor backgrounds.
While the first TED talk I referenced highlights the importance of purpose, this TED talk emphasizes the importance of relationships for health, happiness and longevity. It is extremely well done, highly credible, and helps us remember that it is usually the relationship and people factors that matter most, as we seek our own version of retirement and aging well.
For more on the importance of people and relationships versus activities and places, read my essay titled, Choosing the Right Retirement APP: Activities, People & Places.
3) 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans
Karl Pillemer, PhD, social researcher and gerontologist at Cornell University, interviewed more than one thousand older Americans between the ages of seventy and one hundred in search of lessons for living. He spent over five years on the project and summarized his findings in this book. Here are his thirty lessons:
– marry someone who shares your values and is a lot like you
– friendship is as important as romance
– don’t keep score
– talk to each other
– commit to marriage itself, not just to your partner
– choose for intrinsic rewards, not for financial ones
– keep looking for a job that makes you happy
– make the most of a bad job
– emotional intelligence trumps every other kind
– everyone needs autonomy (in the job)
– it’s all about time (with the kids)
– it’s normal to have favorites, but never show it
– don’t hit your kids
– avoid a rift at all costs
– take a lifelong view of relationships with kids
On Old Age
– being old is much better than you think
– act like you’ll need your body for 100 years
– don’t worry about dying (accept that it is nature’s way)
– stay connected (socially, to people and groups)
– plan ahead about where you will live as an old person
On Avoiding Regrets
– always be honest
– say yes to opportunities
– travel more
– choose a mate with extreme care
– say it now (to people while you and they are still alive)
On Living Like an Old Person (an “expert”)
– time is of the essence (don’t waste it)
– happiness is a choice, not a condition
– time spent worrying is time wasted
– think small (focus on small present things versus big future things)
– have faith (attend a spiritual or religious group)
I greatly enjoyed listening to this book on Audible, and think you might, too. It contains the collective wisdom of one thousand conversations distilled into thirty lessons. I felt like I had invited a wise and generous elder into my home to share life lessons, and offer invaluable guidance about aging well.
I hope you find these three resources to be helpful guides to aging well. Each will help you pursue a purpose filled life, surrounded by those you love, educated and inspired by wise elders. I wish you the best as you learn, give and grow in the years ahead.