Does your retirement fit the perfect retirement image? Are you pursuing a life of perfect ease and relaxation? Are you travelling extensively, living in the perfect retirement house, achieving retirement goals, and living a dream retirement?
Although I am happy with my retirement choices, I confess that I don’t have the perfect retirement.
My husband and I don’t live the lifestyle of the perfect retired couple.
We have not moved to the active adult retirement community or to a luxury condo designed for seniors to enjoy social activities and recreation. In fact, we continue to keep up both our city residence and our cottage which involves a fair amount of physical work — plus extra costs that would stop if we down-sized and moved.
We travel–but not extensively. Busy airports, heavy suitcases, and dealing with other tourists in most resorts aren’t intriguing. Spending time at the cottage provides a break that feels like an extended vacation regardless of whether we stay for a few days or for weeks.
Our lives are not characterized by ease and leisure pursuits. We are busy with grand-parenting, hobbies, and volunteer work. We workout at our gym, cook nutritious meals and visit with friends. Gardening, lawn care, and various household duties take up several hours every week. There is little time for restaurant outings, theatre nights or exotic adventures although we do enjoy such activities and try to partake when possible.
It’s true that retirement allows more time for new pursuits but the images of retirement portrayed by social media are not our reality.
I’m willing to say this is the case for most retired people.
Popular culture promotes an image of retirement that does not resemble how most people live in retirement.
Retirement websites often promote a perfect retirement lifestyle full of adventure and excitement. Retirement magazines feature air brushed glamour shots of older adults on golf courses, lounging at a seaside resort or dressed for a gala event. Chic lifestyle choices featuring unlimited leisure are popular images for marketing various retirement options.
These unrealistic images create inappropriate expectations of how retired people should look and behave.
I get frustrated when I compare my life to these ‘ideal’ images.
Such portrayals of the cultural/societal goal of retirement are unrealistic and often make people feel inadequate if they don’t follow popular prescriptions for retirement lifestyles.
We feel unhappy and unfulfilled if our personal reality doesn’t fit the marketing image of the perfect retirement.
We start to second guess our lifestyle choices. This may cause self-esteem to suffer or cause a feeling of angst that undermines overall well-being.
It’s not surprising that we wonder what’s wrong when we fall short or when we find that practical options are more desirable given income, health or personal preference.
Breaking free of societal expectations
“When you are content to simply be yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.” Lao Tzu.
It’s not easy to break free of societal expectations of the perfect retirement. Retirement is a time in life when we don’t want to make mistakes — not with investments nor with choices of where to live or how to live.
There is no opportunity to ‘practise’ retirement. It’s reality. Most choices don’t have an exit clause or a second chance.
In retirement we begin to realize that life is brief — it will be over in a flash of time.
Because none of us gets an unlimited supply of time, energy or health, it’s important to decide what’s important.
For me, this includes spending time with people I like, or, spending time alone when I need solitude. It includes doing things I enjoy doing and not doing things retired people ’should ‘ do. It also includes focusing on healthy living with daily exercise, a nutritious diet, and getting enough sleep.
When we resolve to make the most of the time we have left, we stop being obsessed with someone else’s idea of the perfect retirement. We stop being afraid of being an ‘outsider’ in terms of our choices. We realize that our lives count for more than the media images that are dissociated from the reality of retirement for most people.
Retirement provides an opportunity to explore deeper purpose of life, spend time with family and take better care of health. The postworksavvy lifestyle is indeed a new phase of life filled with precious days. Who cares if it fits the popular culture’s definition of a perfect retirement?