Many people, when they retire from the workforce, pack and up and leave the city or town where they have lived for many years. Some go to a second or vacation home they already own. Others head for Florida or Arizona where retirees congregate. And some, like me, choose a new place where they have few or no personal attachments in search of - well, in my case, less expensive digs.
Retirement. Retiree. Retired. I so dislike these words, I’m pretty sure I’ve used them in only one post over the two years of TGB’s existence. They smell of idleness and uselessness. Of sun and endless rounds of golf. Of “leisure villages” populated with elders, isolated from younger people and the mainstream of life. Of empty hours stretched out into a future that, these days, can be a third of one’s life spent in drowsy indolence.
Of course, that is only the stereotype created and maintained by the media and the retirement/leisure industry intent on parting retirees from their money. I have no statistics to quote, but I suspect, with the increase in healthy, post-65 years, many so-called retirees are busy with productive endeavors that contribute to the common weal, the well-being of their communities and the people in them.
Did I mention that I can’t stand the words retirement and retiree? Elders are so much more than the image those words conjure. We are writers, volunteers, teachers, students, mentors, activists, bloggers. Today, not a few are raising their grandchildren and/or caring for their aged parents. Many others would remain in the workforce if not for age discrimination, and for those who must work, the choices are few.
Television commercials feature grinning, elder Wal-Mart greeters. A year-old story on the AARP website I can’t get out of my head (and which I can’t locate right now) proudly declares the “success” of a former business development manager, shut out of his career at 60 due to ageism, finding work with the help of an AARP program mixing paint at Home Depot.
Some elders may enjoy these low-paid jobs, but I cannot imagine people who studied for a career in a field that engaged them from youth at which they spent decades of productive employment suddenly finding fulfillment in mindless busy work for minimum wage. If you have ever held an interim job out of necessity that bored you silly, you know how it sucks the life out your entire being.
Did I mention that the words retirement and retiree make me wince? When I am occasionally asked what I do, I say I publish a blog about what it’s really like to get older. (It’s funny to watch faces of those who don’t know what a blog is.) In filling out on- and offline forms, the employment choices are usually student, employed full time, employed part time, self-employed and retired. Since I have no income at the moment, but refuse to be classified with the negative cultural freight that goes with retired, I tick off self-employed.
Twenty-three years ago today, I moved into this apartment. Before then, I had moved 42 times in my life - enough! - and I told everyone I knew that I intended to be taken out of here feet first. If I had any thoughts of retirement then (I doubt it at age 42), it would have had something to do with increased participation in Greenwich Village politics and, perhaps, teaching of some sort. Barring accident or serious illness, I've never seen myself removed from productive activity that retirement implies.
When I’ve settled into a new home in Maine (move no. 43), I intend to find a way to remove myself from the retired category and back into paid employment of some kind. But the fact remains, for the moment, I am retired from the mainstream workforce, so I suppose I’d better get over my personal distaste for the word.