The hidden crisis of retirement: psychology at the end of work

The hidden crisis of retirement: psychology at the end of work

Jon Glass

While many people eagerly await the so-called “golden years” of retirement, finding purpose as a retiree can be a challenge, and this highly anticipated freedom can prove disorienting.

How often have you asked people in their 60s about their retirement and heard them make statements like this:

  • “I am having fun at work”
  • “I don’t know what I’d do in retirement or where to start”
  • “Work stimulates my brain”
  • “I like to socialise with people at work”
  • “I’m not ready to retire yet so I don’t really think about it, I will think about retirement when the time comes”

This is the language that our society finds acceptable when talking about retirement, before it happens. But with this language we always stay at the surface, never thinking about how in fact each individual will experience retirement in their own unique way; and then retirement happens.

Suppose retirement comes as a shock: finding oneself at home with no workplace to attend, no incoming phone calls or emails, no busy and hectic schedule for the week; and no-one to talk to! This could be the sudden shock that some people (not all people) will face after a life-time of work.

Most people have worked for 40 years before they leave the workforce. When they talk about work they use the type of language mentioned above. It helps them to clarify the purpose and meaning of their lives.

But in retirement in order to discover YOUR meaning and purpose you may need professional help. It’s not just about money, although that is important, but also how in quite different circumstances you think about the world. In responding to this everyone is different. Some may experience strong feelings of regret or confusion, others may more straightforwardly need some gentle help to unlock their potential and regain that control and mastery over their lives that they experienced during their careers.

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