Retirement is no longer the passage to old age

by | Retirement

Retirement is changing, rarely the clean break and a life of leisure. People want more. Whilst some will continue in work, they want it on their terms. Others want to follow a new path, to focus on what is meaningful to them. No matter our age, we all will reach our 60s, and my articles should provide thoughtful reading.

Retirement is a major life transition, with as significant impact as starting school and leaving for university. But what playbook do we have to be successful?

For our parents, it was generally a clean break – from full time work to a life of leisure. People slowed down and seemed to age quite fast. They were seen by others as OAPs, without a voice. Why listen to the old person?

Now people in their 60s and considering retirement, want to have it their own way. They may leave work, travel, and then want to do something else, perhaps a completely different career, or a greater focus on unpaid activity. The people I work with want to make the rest of their life their best life, cognisant that there may be health problems ahead. Indeed, whilst people are living longer, it’s not necessarily in good health.

No alt text provided for this image

Is the retirement party with the gold clock, still a thing, and was it the right sort of rites of passage? I remember when I was working in an office at 16, looking out the window and seeing the retired manager walking to his car with his box of possessions. He’d got golf clubs as his present and was planning on taking up golf. Maybe he did that, and loved it. Or maybe he sat at home and thought is this it?

Now people have options. There are alternatives to the abrupt withdrawal as the main way of retiring, with the options of ‘unretirement’ when people return to work after retirement, on a full or part-time basis and ‘encore careers’ where people take on a ‘person driven job’ with a focus on meaning and social impact.

There is a diversity in people’s experience, and considerable variability in the way that retirement is defined. Some people will choose the ‘clean break’ and stop work entirely; others may move to part-time working possibly in a different type of work. Others may return to work after a break. Therefore, seeing retirement as a life transition is more in line with people’s experiences. Still more will have no choice, a lack of pension means they need to work into the distant future because they have to, for survival.

No alt text provided for this image

Receipt of a pension alone is not enough for all people to embrace the title of retired. For some individuals, retirement is the time when people declare themselves to have transitioned out of the labour force, are no longer employed full-time, and describe themselves as ‘retired’ this could be a long time into the future as they spend many years focusing on meaningful interests. Semi-retired covers a lot of how people transition on from full-time work.

One of the problems with a definition of retirement is that it is too broad a time span. It takes us from leaving work still active to the very end of life. We move from being the young-old (yolds?) to the old-old.

Whilst retirement is predictable, individuals experience it in different ways. For some it is negative, with a focus on regret and loss, others see it as a time of growth and development to focus on new activities, such as joining clubs or attending theatre and sporting events. Some see this as a sign of success, they have achieved their long-term goal, others focus more on their loss of status associated with their work identity.

I’ve spent the past few years looking deep into this topic for my doctoral research. As I approach my viva, a time to discuss my research with academics, and hopefully to be able to call myself Dr, time to share my research more widely.

No alt text provided for this image

Each article is going to ask a question to get you thinking. Whilst you can make notes for yourself, you can also share them here, and I’ll read and comment on everyone one.


  1. How do you define retirement?
  2. Do you have a plan, a blueprint for your later life?

At 64 ¼ I’m on this journey, and I’d love to share it with you.

This article was my first LinkedIn newsletter – read comments on their site. 

Related Posts
Turning 60

20 benefits to getting older

Reduced fear of failure: With age, we often become more resilient and less afraid of taking risks or trying new...
Read More

We should act from compassion

There is something about spending time with Buddhist teachers; they radiate calmness and happiness.  I always feel more at peace....
Read More
Money Retirement

Getting your state pension

Early May, about 4 months before I reach my 66th birthday I received a letter, inviting me to claim for...
Read More
Inspiration Retirement Self-Understanding

Letting go ….

Do we need all our possessions? When we travel – do we travel light? We spend a lifetime collecting possessions....
Read More
Elderhood Longer Term

Life at 80 – how AI will change our future

Let's imagine my future. In less than 15 years I'll be 80! Introduction In the year 2038, as you turn...
Read More
Health & Wellbeing

Improving Health Span: The Key to a Long and Healthy Life

As I review the health chapter of my forthcoming book, I was reminded about the difference between health span and...
Read More

The Mental Health Benefits of Working Beyond Retirement Age

Retirement is often associated with a well-deserved break from work and a chance to enjoy leisure time. However, research suggests...
Read More
Positive Ageing

Positive Ageing

Positive ageing is “the process of maintaining a positive attitude, feeling good about yourself, keeping fit and healthy, and engaging...
Read More
Retirement Self-Understanding

What is a meaningful life?

A meaningful life can be defined as a life that has a sense of purpose, fulfilment, and significance. It is...
Read More
Elderhood Retirement

On turning 90

My mum has recently turned 90, she is now old-old. She is still living independently with the help of carers...
Read More
Ageism Health & Wellbeing Retirement

Stay engaged and involved to increase your well-being

Research from the Sloan Centre on Aging & Work at Boston College has found that when older adults are actively engaged in...
Read More

Do we need to stay working to maintain strong mental health?

I regularly read academic papers to ensure there is an evidence base to the work I do with my clients...
Read More

What makes you feel alive?

I’m just back from a 4 day music festival, the first for 3 years, Bearded Theory in Derbyshire. I was...
Read More
Inspiration Self-Understanding

Featured in the Daily Mail

There's a section, written by me, in the Daily Mail today, Thursday 12 May  - all about how to do...
Read More

The Deferred life plan

Life is for living; you don’t want to defer it until you are retired. I hadn’t realised that I was...
Read More

When should we retire?

It was so much easier in years gone by. Most people retired at 60 or 65. So you had a...
Read More

How to change your mindset to get a job in your 50s or 60s

Writing about retirement, I also need to consider ageing, we are getting older, and also work, people may want or...
Read More
Retirement Turning 60

7 great things about getting older

We can’t separate out ageing from retirement, we are getting older and moving into a different life phase. When young...
Read More
Health & Wellbeing Retirement

Glass half full – you will probably live longer

As we think about retirement, we also think about getting older. Whilst it would be nice to live to a...
Read More

Retirement as a Rite of Passage

There is a need to mark important transitions in life, retirement being a major one.  It used to be a party...
Read More

Let’s start to get to know each other.

I’d love to send you a series of articles to get you thinking of your wider life. You will also receive my mid-week 50+ update and the Amazing People newsletter.
Denise Taylor

Chief Inspiration Officer, The 50 Plus Coach.