The word retirement is more of a mental construct. One may be retired from “job life” but still very active in “social life”.
This article is inspired by a Facebook group by the name “Never Say Retired Forum” created by my friend Vijay Maroo, a former journalist. When I heard it for the first time, I was curious to understand the spirit and rationale. The more I delved into it, further I got fascinated. The word “retirement” is, in fact, the prescribed regulatory age by which one is asked to formally withdraw from active professional life. This age is stipulated by governments in different parts of the world. The concept is usually evolved as new and younger generations need to be brought in work force.
The terms retirement does not, however, mean retiring from “active life” or “activities of life”. On the contrary, retirement should be treated as beginning of a “new innings in life” where one can do whatever “one wants to do” or “do whatever one could not do earlier”. It is the dawn of a unique phase of life of independence in thought & action with wings of freedom.
We often find three completely different types of people around us after retirement: those who withdraw from active life and start enjoying leisurely; those who withdraw from life and become lonely; and those who start a new innings altogether. The last option makes a much rational sense; since life is a journey that needs to be used, utilized and enjoyed to the full, it is better we remain active till the time our physical & mental faculties permit. All said and done, “life in the present form” might not come back to us as it is a one-time unique phenomenon and hence provides a unique opportunity to use it most fruitfully. The principle, therefore, should be: “you should never get retired from active life and be of use to others till the time you can”.
We see several cases around us where individuals have rediscovered themselves after retirement. In fact, retirement from professional life has given an opportunity to explore new things, go in for new skills / competencies and thereby enjoying life which is the cardinal principle. There are many members in My Retired Life Foundation (MRLF) who retired more than two decades back but are still as active as they were possibly when they were 50 or 60 years old.
Ramani Iyer is one example where one can learn the tricks of being humorous and jovial even at the age of 75. P Jayram is anther instance who keeps on experimenting with new songs / Bhajans every time there is a musical program of MRL. Dr Alka Chadha, a physician by profession is another example of life and liveliness even at an age much beyond 60. The energy of Shyam Ahuja, another retiree is exemplary the way he manages the audio / video system in all musical programs. I am also sometimes surprised to see enthusiasm of Veena Adige, my colleague at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Vashi, the way she involves herself in activities of Bhavan’s children club.
Another close colleague N K Agarwal is full of energy and always bounces back with new activities the moment he is back from hospital. On the other side, we have people like my close friend Viswanadhan whom I know from college days, who remains in constant search of purpose of life from a philosophical perspective and that keeps him busy.
All these instances remind us once again of the classical principle that “you may be formally retired but never retired from life”.
When one tries to investigate further as to what keeps people engaged and active much after the formal retirement, there are certain common denominators:
- They have usually found a new purpose of life. Meaning of the word “purpose” might vary widely among people. In common language, it implies they have found some rationale for living a happy and active life.
- All of them enjoy life. This is crucial as good and bad things average out in life being a combination of happiness and sorrows. One needs to move forward in anticipation of good & positive future. There is no point in cribbing for past or sufferings of today. We need to move on.
- All of them keep themselves busy in something or the other. Keeping idle or passing time idly is the worst thing that can happen. The only way to “live life” is to keep busy.
- Many of them are in search for new learning / knowledge path or competency building. This quest for learning and practicing new ideas will help an elder to spend time meaningfully.
- All of them are connected to some extent. This is crucial as remaining connected takes away feeling of boredom or loneliness. All happy elders try to be socially active either in family circle, or in social settings or in clubs / associations depending on their choice. Sharing is extremely important at elder age and “social networks” allow this to a large extent.
What it means is that it is possible in life to remain “not in retired mode” even after formal retirement, if there is an attitude to be active. This “attitudinal aspect” is crucial as everything is a mind game at end of the day. You may be physically fit but still may feel retired & lonely; whereas one may be weak and physically not so fit but still continues to remain mentally active and contribute to society as there is a positive attitude to do something.
Life journey is quite intricate and everything depends how we take the voyage as it goes on. The word retirement is, therefore, more of a mental construct. One may be retired from “job life” but still very active in “social life”. A retired person is not dead and gone; it is only a nomenclature or semantics. All elders must, therefore, try to be as active and joyful as they can till the time they can. That’s the spirit of living life.
Dr A K Sen Gupta is the Co-Founder and Chief Trustee of My Retired Life Foundation (MRLF). This article has been published in Free Press Journal (FPJ) on 26th November 2022, where he is a regular contributor. Dr Sen Gupta was the Director of S.P. Jain Institute of Management & Research, Mumbai, and Director & Mentor at SIES College of Management Studies, Navi Mumbai. He was a World Bank Consultant and instrumental in setting up the National Banking College in Ghana, Africa, and a Professor at the National Institute of Bank Management, Pune.