Maintaining Relevance

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“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?” ~ Satchel Paige

At a recent professional conference a keynote invited those present to publicly share what they feared. A colleague in her late 60’s responded “losing relevance.”

What would your response have been?

As a trailing-edge boomer, I cross paths with many people who are thinking about “retirement.” Note I said thinking about, not necessarily planning for it. What I find fascinating is that, more and more, those giving intentional thought to active lifestyle change are open to doing something besides playing board games or painting (not to disparage either). They seek increased engagement.

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I have yet to hear anyone at this life stage say they want to be bored. Or to become insignificant. Most people want to create and strengthen meaningful connections and to broaden their community. They have the energy and drive to explore and effect change; they’re just unsure what to do next.

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For those interested in doing something entirely new, the possibilities are boundless – often limited only by their own beliefs and stories. For those open to discovering and experiencing something unfamiliar, here are five popular gigs that “retirees” are stepping into and enjoying:

  • Tour Guide Operator – allows a coupling of personal travel interests with social interaction and exercise
  • Virtual Assistant – as the title implies, the work can be done virtually and you get to determine what assistance you provide
  • Uber Driver – an opportunity to meet new people, see new vistas, and you define your personal workload
  • Peace Corp Volunteer – seven percent of volunteers are aged 50+. A new adventure with a humanitarian focus where you can share accumulated wisdom and experience, often benefiting the less fortunate
  • Tutor – anyone, of any age. People love to learn. Sometimes they simply need another caring individual to help them navigate new subject matter.

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What you choose to do next could easily keep you pertinent. It need not be a complex undertaking. A willingness to play in some initial uncertainty might be the very stimulation you seek… maybe it could become vastly rewarding.

There are numerous ways in which to maintain one’s relevance. And not just as “retirement” approaches.  Here are three to consider:

  1. Stay curious. Welcome learning and acquire knowledge any way you can. Share your discoveries with others. In doing so, you show you are willing to try new things, even (gasp!) methods considered outside the box.
  2. Meet new people. Negative friends drain us. Positive friends propel us forward. Our possibilities can be limited by our current ‘network.’ Rejuvenating your network is an important part of staying relevant.
  3. Get your hearing checked. Seriously. Not being able to hear potentially puts you out of touch with people. As we age we tend to deny natural loss of hearing. Eventually younger people shut out the hearing challenged and move conversations elsewhere. One must hear to remain relevant.

Myths, Facts and Reminders

 

“Preparation for old age should begin not later than one’s teens. A life which is empty of purpose until 65 will not suddenly become filled on retirement.” ~ D. L. Moody

Retirement myths; they abound. As people plan for and approach life’s Third Act, many think they’ll be spending more time with family and friends. It’s true that you will likely have plenty of discretionary time. And though you may want to spend more time with family and friends, will they have the time to spend with you? Many of them many still be on a hectic treadmill. Consider whether your adult children and their family really want you to come over for dinner every Sunday night?

Perhaps you envision walking hand-in-hand along an exotic beach somewhere. While traveling to romantic destinations is on many people’s short list, be real. For most, those trips will likely be few and far between. Your focus will be better spent on what you’ll be doing on those days in between trips. Costs for those trips add up. Not surprisingly, an Allianz study found that 82 percent of respondents ages 44 to 49 with dependents, feared outliving their money more than death. That doesn’t sound like a crowd spending much time at all-inclusive resorts in Phuket, does it?

Fact: More and more people are working in retirement. Why? To stay mentally active. In a recent survey, money was reason #4 after “to stay physically active,” “social connections,” and “sense of identity/self-worth.” Presently, 80 percent of working retirees said they work because they “want to;” 20 percent said because they “have to.”

In work and research what I continue to find amazing and somewhat alarming, is that many boomers focus largely on the financial planning aspect of life’s Third Act and little else. Here’s where an apt adage applies: “Failure to plan is a plan for failure.” Maybe that’s a bit drastic but it seems fair to think that significant planning, well in advance, is probably going to better your odds of enjoyable retirement living.

Intentionally sidestepping financial planning (because it’s obvious), here are three things to keep in mind for life’s Third Act. You could probably come up with 30 more on the back of an envelope.

  1. Be mindful of how you think. Certain thinking styles can stress people out. Things like perfectionism, all-or-nothing thinking, and negative thinking. As you plan for or help others plan for retirement, be mindful of how you think. Consider lowering your expectations and instead, think in “anticipation” terms. Learn to accept and become comfortable with the fact that reality may not always match your ‘vision.’ Frame problems or potential challenges as opportunities. This is about mindset shifts.
  2. Know what makes you happy (and what makes your partner happy!). Life gets so busy while we are building our careers that we often end up in a rut. We may not have the time or energy to do the things we love. Prior to and once you transition into retirement, choose activities that will make time fly for you!
  3. Get good teeth. You do not want to look into a mirror and see a gnarly smile, even if minor. Dental care can be very expensive, so it’s prudent to get your teeth fixed while you’re still under a dental health plan. The longer you wait, the worse the fate. Dentures are a last-ditch effort and many who have them, hate how they feel and are not happy about limiting their food options. On a related note, healthy gums versus periodontal disease can also help with cardiovascular health.