I had the opportunity to interview a number of men about their experiences with retirement. They ranged from one to five years into their retirements and so relatively early as their retirements could last another 30 years.
In January of 2016, Lyndsay Green’s book on this subject of men in retirement is due to come out and I am looking forward to reading it. Mitch Antony in his book, The New Retirementality, discusses the frustration of being on the grandstand and not being in the game. This got me curious about the issues that men face in retirement.
Issues, challenges and problems men face in early retirement
The responses that I heard most often had to do with identity issues. One person said he went from a legend to nobody in the snap of a finger while another called it the Hero to Zero fall. Status, position, role, and job satisfaction go by the board. Those who do not replace that with something else can have a real personal crisis of regaining a sense of who they are and how their lives are meaningful after work.
“It’s a real mental adjustment once it sinks in you’re not going back to work. It’s like, now what?”
“You have to find a sense of purpose.”
“There are internal and external pressures that say I should be doing something.”
One of these external pressures may be from a spouse I heard.
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How can men cope with retirement?
I only had one response of,“Heavy drinking.” The rest had to do with postponing retirement, working part time, talking to a Retirement Coach, volunteering, starting a business, and keeping fit. The men I talked to did a wide variety of activities like Habitat builds, ski patrol, home and cottage renos, got involved in municipal politics, church work, charitable and fundraising activities, service club work, and a range of hobbies. Improved fitness was also a repeated theme. One whose wife was still working took over the shopping, cooking and a few other household chores. Another said he did not know what he would do without his weekly Men’s Group, “…hanging out with the guys and talking all this stuff out.”
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The experience of retiring
The men I interviewed were, by and large, positive about their experiences of retirement but I found most were still working in some capacity. Some did short stints in their former positions, had started a business, run for public office, were working part time and often at more than one job. One said that as long as he was able in mind and body, he would continue working to be productive and continue to make a contribution. Most said that they look for opportunities to use their experiences and skills. Another pointed out that, if you find yourself in a rut, get the hell out! He had friends who had not coped with retirement very well at all and had become depressed and jeopardized their marriages until they got their new acts together. The reality of physical changes and limitations also take some adjusting to and your pace may change a bit another pointed out.
Related article: Will you retire or keep working?
These talks with men reminded me of Chris Farrell’s book, Unretirement: How Baby Boomers are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community, and The Good Life as well as Marc Freedman’s Encore.org as both of these sing the praises of continued employment.
Stay tuned for next time to hear the advice from these men in retirement. I would like to hear of your experiences in retirement and your thoughts on issues that men face in retirement.