The Surprises of Retirement
Retirement: is this our final act, the dimming of the light, the inescapable descent into hopeless senility? The traditional answer is an emphatic “yes,” as indicated by the dictionary definition: “To give up, to go away, to seek seclusion, recede or disappear.” But recent decades have seen a transformation in the possibilities that are ushered in by retirement, at least in Western society. Improvements in life expectancy mean that, for most of us, there will typically be 15–20 years available for quality living before we truly recede. This is reflected in a review by Baltes in the American Psychologist:
During the last decade, we have witnessed a growing success story regarding young old age. Because of medical, technical, social, economic and educational advances, the overall …life for 60- and 70-year olds has made major strides in indicators of health and psychological functioning. For this period of the third age, cultural and social forces in industrialized countries have been able to offset, for the most part and for most individuals, the weaknesses inherent in the biological life-span.1
In writing this review, Baltes credited the Roman philosopher and statesman Cicero (106–43 BCE) as being the original champion of retirement. Cicero wrote an essay on old age in his early sixties, arguing that a properly-managed retirement provided opportunities for continued personal development. Drawing on Stoicism, he particularly emphasized that the waning ...