If retirement today was a foreign country, it would be one no previous generation had ever visited.

Our parent’s generation would hardly believe what life after work offers today. Because, between then and now, it has changed so dramatically.

For a start, would your mum have shopped for the latest fashion, joined an aerobics class or had a ‘night out with the girls’? Would your dad, in his 60s, have jogged, gone to a music festival, or made plans for international travel?

Come retirement, would either have been anticipating fresh discoveries, challenges and experiences? A wider world beyond work and family?

The answer to these questions is almost certainly ‘no’. Because in just one generation, when paid work comes to an end, there have been incredible changes to how we live and how we approach things.

Wrap your mind round this:

Health and expectations: For most of us, our parents were already feeling old, and classed as old, by the time their pension beckoned. Not only old in body but old in mind-set too. After all, why have a bucket list if your knees are gone, your pension is minimal and the clock is ticking fast?

Yet in only a generation, 65 has become the new 55. And 70 the new 60. Even though we are now retiring several years later, we are still younger in mind, body and outlook.

Social conditioning: Unlike us, our parents’ generation lived through World War 2 and may well have fought in it. Their three score years and ten were mostly about survival. About having enough income to pay the rent or mortgage and put food on the table. About ‘getting by’.

Unlike us, many lived, worked and died in the town where they were born. For some it was even the same house. To travel far was rare. To travel often, even rarer.

Unlike us, education was all about listening, obeying, writing and remembering. While ours tended to be about discovering, questioning, reasoning and enquiring.

Unlike us, work was mostly graft and the long haul. Often with one trade, and even one employer, for the whole of a working life. While, for us, our working life may have been one of change and development.

Cultural influences: Unlike our parents, we – the ‘baby boomer’ generation – were the first to be raised with television in the home, a source of constant entertainment, fun, possibilities and a window on a different world.

Unlike our parents, for us the economy boomed and so did our opportunities in a world of growing change and choice. In great contrast, they had lived through post-war austerity and high levels of unemployment. Eating out? Forget it. Just be sure to eat everything that’s put on your plate.

Our generation were the rule breakers, the innovators and the protesters – be it The Beatles, Jasper Conran or Ban the Bomb. The sedate tea dance became the free-form disco. The three piece suit became smart casual or jeans and tee shirts.

We experienced a land of new opportunities. This included something called ‘leisure’ – time for ourselves. And travel – to places our parents had never gone and for longer than they would ever believe possible.

It is these life experiences that have shaped our retirement expectations. What else should we expect other than even more years of change, choice, experiences, and prospects?

We are privileged to have opportunities undreamed of in the past. And with privilege comes responsibility. First, we should never take for granted what we now have in view of the price paid by so many in the past to make it so.

Second, we should face the challenge to make the most of it. That will mean something different for each one of us. But it must mean something.

And if you’d like a simple rough guide to this new country that few have visited before you, do check out AfterWorkNet.com

Peter Meadows
Peter uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and spend his kids’ inheritance.

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  1. It has been said that many who were born between 1948 – 58 are the “Golden Generation”, final salary pensions, cheap housing, those born later will not have the opportunities of pensions or housing of the “baby boomers”.

  2. Thanks so much for highlighting the richness of potential in these years of adventure. Trust that many will be inspired by your creative dialogue. Kind regards, David

  3. It is a pity about the legacy of generation rent. Houses should only be sold to UK people and not be left empty as an investment

  4. My dad retired at 62 and dies of cancer at 63. My mother retired from selling Wedgewood china at the age of 26 and never worked again. She was a widow for over 20 years. Retirement was often short and therefore not given values and activities – you just stopped working. Our generation must define retirement and give it significance. Many people will experience over 20 years of it – something my parents didn’tunderstand

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The word retirement is not even in the Bible. What is taught in scripture is transition. There is nothing that says you work most of your life and then get to be selfish for the next 20 years

Rick Warren, PurposeDrivenLife