2011 is the year the first wave of Baby Boomers will turn 65, what has traditionally been considered retirement age. The Baby Boomer generation, however, has been anything but traditional from their youth and aging will be no exception, in part because we are living longer.
The system of retiring at age 65 was developed in earlier generations, when that age was much closer to the end of life than it is now. With people living in 2000 having a life expectancy of about 30 years longer than our fore bearers living in 1900, we have a whole new period of life not possible in previous generations. Dr. William Sadler calls this 30-year life bonus 'The Third Age'.
- 1st Age, PREPARATION - Childhood/Adolescence - prepares us for life, developing skills to become independent
- 2nd Age, ACHIEVEMENT - Career/Family - focus on security, status, belonging
- 3rd Age, FULFILLMENT - begins when advancement and status become less important, typically done raising family, have more wisdom and self-awareness and shift focus from achievement to fulfillment
- 4th Age, COMPLETION - the last years of life, this period is also longer than in earlier generations
This 30-year life bonus is a wonderful gift, but it also comes with its challenges, as was pointed out by a woman who attended a workshop I helped lead on planning for the next stage of your life. She said she had been excited to retire a couple years ago and had a long list of what she was looking forward to doing. She was at the workshop because two years had passed and she had done everything on her list... she was ready to figure out what's next!
This is a common question shared by many at this stage of life, who also frequently share similar core values...
- Importance of feeling a sense of belonging
- Need to give something back
- Taking more risks to age maturely and cooperatively with all generations
The first step in planning for your next stage of life is to determine who you really are and what energizes and sustains you. You can start by...
- Clarifying your values - what is really important to you?
- Discovering your gifts - what is it that you can't help but give away?
- Exploring your dreams - what is still waiting to be fulfilled?
- Acknowledging your passions - what makes you come alive?
Figuring it all out can be pretty overwhelming, and many people choose to work with a life coach to help them plan the next stage of their life.
Regardless of what else they decide to do, I find that many 'Third Agers' end up at some point moving closer to family, which can include children, grandchildren and parents... sometimes even having multiple homes in different locations for different purposes and connections.
A frequent conception is thinking of downsizing as one reaches the Third Age... which doesn't happen as often as you might think. With expanding families coming to visit, they often find they need more entertaining space than before... and re-arrange the space so all primary living areas are on one level both for themselves and aging parents, often with extra bedrooms and recreation space on a lower level for visiting children and grandchildren. Another common shift is a move into a town home or condominium for release from exterior maintenance, lawn care and snow removal... and more freedom to travel.
As you make plans for the next stage of your life, whatever that may be, never lose sight of who you really are. I encourage you to use your values, gifts, dreams and passions as a benchmark against which to measure how you spend your life. We can get so distracted and influenced by the world around us that we may forget what is really important to us...what nurtures our souls and keeps us 'alive'.