Wednesday, 14 July 2010

'Rewired or Retired'?

'Rewired, not Retired' - that was the title of a magazine article I came across in the dentist's waiting room recently. I only had time to skim the article sufficiently to see that it was about people who had successfully begun a new career after retiring from their first one, before I was summoned to the torture chair.

"I enjoy waking up and not having to go to work. 
So I do it three or four times a day." 
 Gene Perret.

But what an excellent and memorable title especially in the light of the recent 'shock-horror' announcement that the official retirement age will have to be raised to allow for the huge 'black holes' in the pension funds. I found it difficult to understand the outrage expressed by those interviewed by the BBC because I am well past so-called 'retirement age', working all hours and wouldn't have it any other way. Well, to be honest, I'd prefer not to work quite so many hours, but the idea of retiring is something I don't even think about! Ever since I was entranced by a programme on TV many years ago, about a couple who, on reaching that magical age had bought a canal longboat, done it up and turned it into a thriving business, I've felt strongly that  'retirement' is not for me.

"Retirement kills more people than hard work ever did." 
Malcolm Forbes.

I can see that things might look very different for anyone who has slogged their way faithfully through forty or so years of a job that they didn't much like. Probably the thought of retirement at a certain point would be all that kept them going and to have that prospect of freedom and leisure delayed, even by a year or two, might seems outrageous.

But when your worklife/career has been as 'intermittent' as mine has, because of family responsibilities and back problems, the opportunity to work more or less unfettered and consistently later in life is something I welcome. I've had a few shocked comments from people I've met, of the, 'you don't work, do you?' variety and the woman I saw about applying for Pension Credits was completely flummoxed about whether I was eligible because she had never come across anyone of my age who was working! But didn't Freud say something about work being one of the keys to a healthy life, a concept that the Humanistic movement has expanded upon?

For some people, that sudden release from what they regarded as a prison of daily drudgery can bring all sorts of emotional problems they hadn't anticipated -

"When a man retires, 
his wife gets twice the husband 
but only half the income." 
Chi Chi Rodriguez.

Recognising this, classes have been set up to prepare people for their changed situation. Here's an excellent article about the pyschological hazards of retirement. Once they have taken the cruise they had promised themselves and sampled the habit of getting up late, they may begin to miss the structure their work gave to their lives, they realise they are no longer needed, no longer part of something bigger than themselves. They may begin to perceive themselves as being 'on the scrapheap' and the freedom they had so looked forward to can feel more like emptiness.

The often poignant BBC sitcom of a few years ago, 'Waiting for God'  comes to mind!

"Retirement is the ugliest word in the language"
Ernest Hemingway.

So it came as a bit of a puzzle to me when a Greeting Card Universe reviewer insisted that I should put some  of my 'Enjoy your Retirement' or 'Best wishes for your Retirement' cards in the 'Congratulations' category!! What is there to be congratulated on? Having finally reached the end of the line? Having stuck it out all those years? It seemed a ridiculously inappropriate categorisation to me, but I went along with it, on the grounds that the reviewers know what's best for our greeting card sales - or maybe I'm missing something?

What do you think?

These two 'retirement' cards perhaps reflect a difference in attitude to retirement between men and women. The man now has time to stop and listen to the birds singing; while the woman is rejoicing in her new-found freedom! Probably something to do with the hormones!

These three embody the idea that somehow retirement brings with it 'peace and quiet' - maybe it does for some?


And these are the result of my 'naughty' pencil getting up to its old tricks yesterday!

Onwards and upwards...


Ulla Hennig said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on retirement! Regarding the differences between men and women our stats say that women are far more participating in further education projects when they are retired than men do. I think one reason for this could be that women who have retired (are retired?) enjoy their freedom and do things they could not do when they were working.
I further think that the attitude towards retirement depends on which quality the work life had and whether work had been or is the central activity. My own life is filled with "two kinds of work" - the work at the office and the work connected with blogging, writing and creating things (I call these "work", too.)
I like my job, but won't fall in any black hole when it will be over (in about 10 years time).

Country Mouse Studio said...

He's wonderful, another winner. I love your characters.

Michele said...

Great character and sure to sell I think! What is it they say, do a job you love and you will never work a day in your life. I have no intention of retiring. I had a few years at home with my daughter when she was little, that was enough for me. The world is changing, retirement will be a thing of the past, work will just change and adapt to your age and abilities. At least in my Utopian vision. My nan kept retiring, had parties, said that's it... then just went back, doing a few hours less. She lived to 97.

JudyAdamsonArtandDesign said...

Thank you all for your comments. I'm glad you like 'Archie' (apologies to any 'Archies' who may be reading this but it's the name that dropped into my mind!).

Ulla, interesting, but not really surprising that stats bear out the gender difference when it comes to 'active' retirement. I wish I could remember where I read that the hormonal changes in both men and women contribute to the differences in the way they live out their later days!

And Michele - I think you're so right. The world IS changing and I suppose we are lucky that at least some of what we do for 'work' is what we love to do. It makes me wonder whether, as an artist, it's ever possible to retire - surely one goes on being an artist till the day one dies. (I suppose it depends on one's definition of 'work')