Some years ago Robert Atchley, a gerontologist, published a paper about the seven stages of retirement. He described the honeymoon phase, the disenchantment that follows it, and the reorientation that gradually evolves. The paper was widely quoted, and boomers who expected to live forever blithely ignored it.
We’re not so blithe anymore.
Yet we of the grey ponytail set still rebel against the notion that we must follow the path our elders took. We prefer to follow our hearts, even when they lead us into shark-infested waters.
However, as we find ourselves slipping, kicking and screaming in some cases, into geezerhood, I can’t help noticing that Atchley wasn’t far wrong in his assessment of the process. But I have my own take on the stage settings.
The way I see it, stage one is Relief. Free at last! This is celebrated with lots of sleeping in and various libations according to taste, until the balloons wilt and the gang leaves.
This leads to stage two, Wild Speculation. You can do anything now! Take that trip to Easter Island, remodel the kitchen, climb Kilimanjaro, or at least take a picture of yourself beside it, which is just as good and earns you points on the been-there-done-that scale.
Unfortunately, all that activity eventually leads to stage three, Exhaustion. Also, unless you were very thrifty before this whole retirement notion sank in, you’re beginning to realize there are limits, monetary and stamina-wise, to what you can do.
But you aren’t about to let that cramp your style. Thus you charge ahead into stage four, Planning Your Strategy, with a determination to enjoy life to the fullest and make the world a better place at the same time. Nothing will stop you.
However, as you wade deeper into the logistics and hard realities of planning a better life, etc., you begin to feel that this is a lot like work. Welcome to stage five.
Gradually, as you continue to gather facts and figures, the complexity of it all begins to weigh you down and a numbing lassitude sets in, signaling that you have reached the Why Bother stage. It has a number, but who cares?
Some people never make it out of this stage. I feel for them.
But you know, we few, we lucky few, we who band with our brothers and say to hell with stages, we’ll play for our friends and make the world a brighter place if only for a few hours, we place our faith in the Bank of Denial. That’s right. Good old fashioned what-me-worry? denial has stood the test of time and, by golly, it can work for you if you give it a chance.
The important thing, the vital prime directive of this mission into senior air-space, is: Don’t Sit In the Chair. Yes, I know. The chair beckons. It’s so comfy. It welcomes your tired aching body like the warm hug of a sweet lover. But you must resist. Once you give in to the chair, there’s no getting back up.
The whole key to survival, really, is to keep going. Where almost doesn’t matter.
I’ve recently become addicted to the stylish, loosely-based-on-reality series “Halt and Catch Fire.” The title refers to an old computer coding mnemonic that causes a program to cease meaningful operation, often requiring a restart of the computer. Set in the 1980s, when computers were just beginning to take over the world, the show manages to take a quiet, nerdy business and make it sexy and exciting.
Computer technology has always been a game of speed and wits. The fast succeed. Those who stop to rest never catch up. They get left in the dust.
The real secret to retiring is: don’t. Find something you love to do and do it as long as you can. The final frontier is, after all, another frontier. Further!