More Active Seniors

Science Blog  has an interesting article entitled, USA: Don’t write off seniors – Retirees are pursuing their life dreams.

Many retirees are using time and money to pursue lifelong interests, which is quite contrary to the stereotype of grandparents sitting on the porch in rocking chairs.  Retirement can be a time of personal growth and activity, according to new research to be published in the Journal of Consumer Research in August 2009.

Perhaps this all stems from that word retirement.  The same word is also used to mean going to bed.  That perhaps was the historical connotation.  People had a long working life and would retire because they were no longer capable of working.  Retirement was a time for taking things more slowly and enjoying a well rest.

That was before people started living longer as they live more healthy lives and the medical profession find cures for many more illnesses.  Now the age of retirement does not signal winding down an active life.  Retirement should be reinterpreted as the process by which one enters the second phase of your life.  In a sense it is a renaissance.

The researchers, Hope Jensen Schau (University of Arizona), Mary C. Gilly (University of California, Irvine), and Mary Wolfinbarger (California State University, Long Beach),  embarked on a research project to explore the phenomena called "identity renaissance." They found that in contrast to images of seniors in decline, many retirees are using their time and money to pursue lifelong interests they had put aside in favor of more immediate obligations prior to retirement.

The study data revealed two types of identity renaissance among retirees: self-expression and affiliation.

Self-expression can involve the following:

  • people take up past life projects that were deferred or continue with life interests despite difficulties caused by  illness or disability.
  • creating a lasting legacy that is relevant to the current state of culture and society, involving perhaps buying a computer and learning to use the internet; or
  • self-discovery, which entails creating new projects, life goals, or memories.

Affiliation is more outward focused and can involve:

  • moving closer to friends and family
  • increasing a connection to a place, such as their homeland; or
  • volunteering or working to improve the world situation.

In the words of the authors, "Retirement is a time of significant renewal, when individuals have time to engage in identity work in a way not possible since their adolescence."  In other words, retirement is a time of opening up opportunities rather than the beginning of the end.

Other Resources for Active Seniors

Modern Day Senior for today’s active seniors– An online resource for active seniors.

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