One of my daughters is 37 year old. That places her squarely in what is called Generation X, or the group that follows the Baby Boomers. These are the folks that will inherit whatever the 76 millions Boomers leave behind (the good, the bad, and the ugly).
Recently she was visiting us between business trips. At one point she said, "You guys are not like retired people." That caught my attention. After 17 years away from working world I would have thought we were about as close to "retired people" as one could find.
So, I asked what she meant. Her answer was important because it revealed an image issue that is probably quite common. She meant that Betty and I are active, have many interests, find new things to do and try, and aren't content to just watch the clock tick.
Her description of her parents fits most of the folks who read this blog and those who leave comments. Being active, learning and trying something different...that seems about right for most of the retired people I know, both in person and through this blog.
I asked her a followup question: "What retired people do you know who aren't like us?" She named some couples who spend most of their time playing golf, going to cocktail parties, watching TV, or stuck in a routine that rarely varies. In her mind that is what the majority of retired people do; mom and dad are outliers.
Her assumptions put in focus an image problem that retirement continues to have, especially with younger people, about how we spend this stage of our life. And, that is important because it probably influences their likelihood of planning for their own retirement. If they see it as a dull, static part of life, then why would they ever want to retire?
If retirement is the end of the road, then saving for that future wouldn't be an important priority. Keeping one's health as long as possible, maintaining a stimulated brain....why worry if it is only used for watching TV or playing Bunco?
I propose no grand solution, just some common sense steps. What can we do to help change the outmoded ideas that the younger generation has of retirement? Spend more time with those in their 30's and 40's if that is an option for you. Join clubs or volunteer organizations that have a nice mix of age groups. Go to events at school or church in which grandkids participate...that will put you in close contact with parents of this age group.
Live outside a retirement community if that fits your needs and interact with dog walkers, kids and parents in the park, your neighbors. If you need to shop, don't go when you are feeling grumpy or out of sorts. Your attitude in public can go a long way to dispelling the image of the angry old person!
Obviously, it is not our sole responsibility to change a flawed perception of retirement. Movies and TV do a great job of pigeon-holing us as has-beens or confused oldsters. Sometimes our reluctance to embrace new technology, or change in any form feeds that perception.
What we can do is live a life that belies that stereotype, in full public view, and chip away at the wrong image, one swing at a time.